Egyptians who are infected with blood diseases do not only threaten their own well-being but the one of Egypt’s whole population and its economy. Egypt’s problem is twofold: on the one hand, a substantial share of its population is infected with high-risk blood diseases, on the other hand, the demand of healthy blood rises, while its supply falls; all of which is at the cost of individual life quality and Egypt’s economy. Blood diseases and viruses are one of the ten most frequent causes of death in Egypt. In 2012 only, 12.400 Egyptians died from blood diseases and the trend is increasing. Two of the blood diseases that are exceptionally widely-spread across the Egyptian population are the Hepatitis C Virus and Anaemia. Remarkably, Egypt has the highest prevalence of the Hepatitis C Virus worldwide with 22% (WHO). Hepatitis C virus can lead to kidney diseases, circulatory diseases, renal failure, and cancers of the oesophagus, prostate and thyroid, all of which cause mortality. Anaemia is particularly dangerous during pregnancy as it causes an increased risk of maternal and perinatal mortality and abnormalities of the newly born babies. In 2011, the Nutrition Impact Model Study Group found that almost one in three pregnant Egyptians had Anaemia. Besides the high risk Anaemia poses to pregnant women, adversely affect cognitive and motor development and cause fatigue and low productivity. In addition to threatening the health of individuals, represent a great burden to Egyptian economy. On one hand, high number of infected citizens means a loss of valuable productivity and a substantial loss of labor force for Egypt’s economy. On the other hand, the many infected people cause high financial costs for Egypt. According to Pharmerit International, 80 million dollars, which constitute 20% of Egypt’s annual health budget, are spent on Hepatitis C care and treatment only. That costs Egypt, according to the National American Library of Medicine, $1.4B a year for the treatment of the virus.
Despite the wide spread of blood diseases among Egyptians, their awareness of the illness is very low. In the case of Hepatitis C, a substantial 78.7% of Egypt’s population has never been tested for the infection and approximately 18% of Egyptians have never heard about it (as blood tests are not part of regular health care in Egypt). The high danger of the unawareness is twofold: On the one hand, the further development of blood diseases can cause a high threat to individual health and even death. On the other hand, a high number of citizens infected with commutable diseases, exposes the whole population to the risk of infection through transmission. The lack of education on and of awareness of blood diseases among Egypt’s population prevents people from taking preventative measures, taking the step to actually scan their blood and even from treating their detected disease adequately. This comes with an associated stigma of that disease as people are afraid to get fired by their employers or losing their social capital as their neighbours believes that this disease has no cure. Egypt’s poor population in particular, is very often unaware of their illness or neglect their infection due to high stigmas and the risk of losing their jobs. Moreover, the lack of awareness of the importance of blood donations, as well as problems with adequate quality controls, makes hard to find people who want to donate their blood. The National Blood Bank adopts a policy that in order to receive blood a citizen either has to pay for it or get 4 blood donors. Even if this policy works for some, it is unsustainable and does not respond to the lack of trust because of the belief that the equipment that is used at the bank is contaminated. The unavailability of blood can require family members or obliged donors to fill the gap quickly leading to inadequately controlled, low quality blood transfusions with a high risk of transmission. The National Blood Transfusion Services make an effort to collect sufficient blood donations, however, they do not even collect one third of the blood supply Egyptian’s need. In Egypt, around 150,000 hepatitis C patients need regular blood transfusions. These patients need both a sufficient supply and an assured quality of blood, of which both are problematic in Egypt. In Egypt, an alarming 22% of blood donors themselves are infected with Hepatitis C, still excluding other blood diseases. In terms of quantity, in recent years, the number of blood donors has fallen sharply according to health experts, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients, where is no systematized blood supply in Egypt.
In modern health care, blood transfusions are an ever more integrated practice that has the potential to save millions of lives. WHO argues that 1% of the population regularly donates blood globally and in order to have a proper blood supply, the percentage should be increased to 4-5%. The unavailability of healthy blood, as well as transfusions with defected blood risks the lives of hundreds of thousand patients in Egypt. At the same time, the number of people who are infected with blood diseases is increasing. The national cost for curing blood diseases exceeds the Egyptian spending on health. The growing number of infected citizens decreases Egypt’s productivity and burdens its economy. Long Live Egypt Fund (Tahia Masr) has launched a campaign working for a Virus C free Egypt in 2020, yet the patients did not go and receive the medication as they lack the awareness that the disease is curable, afraid of the associated stigma, or sell the disease in the black market to finance their dependents. Egypt is not the only country in the region, with an exceptionally wide spread of blood diseases. In fact, North Africa is one of the regions with the highest number of infected people and the lowest quality controls. As history has shown, blood diseases that are not contaminated adequately are able to turn into epidemics, threatening citizens over many countries.