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[PRETORIA] The verdict of delegates was unanimous: “Funding of this important research capacity building project in blood transfusion services for Sub-Saharan Africa is to end in March, but don’t let it die.”
As I participated in an international workshop in South Africa on Tuesday (24 February) to map new research priorities for blood transfusion research for Sub-Saharan Africa, I could not agree more with delegates about the need to sustain T-REC.
T-REC is an international consortium of academics and health practitioners that works in Ghana and Zimbabwe to strengthen research capacity for blood transfusion.
Imelda Bates, a professor of tropical haematology at the UK-based Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and a principal investigator of T-REC, highlighted research priorities that were identified in a similar international meeting in Kenya in 2008.
“We used those research priorities to look for funding,” Bates said, noting that the four-year, 1.7 million euro, EU-sponsored project began in 2011.
According to Bates, the project has provided small grants to 60 undergraduate students in Ghana and Zimbabwe to undertake blood transfusion, and has resulted in 42 professionals in the two countries’ blood services obtaining LSTM’s diploma in project design and management, with the training taking place in the two countries. In addition, it has provided funding for four doctoral students — two each in Ghana and Zimbabwe — to pursue studies in blood transfusion.

“Research capacity could help us generate evidence to influence governments and policymakers to help save lives.”

Mary Kariithi, Regional Society of Blood Transfusion in Kenya

But Bates cited the challenges of promoting blood transfusion research, especially to students who are in the social sciences.
The meeting, which attracted delegates from Europe, United States and several African countries, including Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe, underscored the important role of research in blood transfusion services.
But it also showed how South-South and North-South partnerships could help build research capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the meeting also brought to light the critical challenge of sustaining projects once the funding is over.
Mary Kariithi, director of Regional Society for  Blood Transfusion in Kenya, told SciDev.Net that getting research evidence in blood transfusion could help address maternal and child health.
“Research capacity could help us generate evidence to influence governments and policymakers to help save lives,” Kariithi said, adding that more funding should be obtained to promote project’s scale-up in other African countries.
But while I agree that more funding is needed to build blood transfusion research capacity on the continent, where the money should come from is my concern. Could African governments also contribute funding to strengthening research capacities of national blood transfusion services?
As noted by Bates, different funding sources would need to be targeted with the new research priorities that are being generated at the meeting. “All of us have to look for funding opportunities,” Bates told delegates.
Indeed as Africa’s national blood services infuse blood into patients to save lives, it appears the blood services themselves too need ‘funding infusions’ from governments, donor organisations and other sources to strengthen and sustain their abilities to undertake research to generate evidence.
Disclaimer: Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, a key partner of T-REC, sponsored Bernard Appiah to attend the meeting,
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.

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