Facebook and the National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ) have launched a new feature to encourage people to donate blood.

Zimbabweans between 18 and 65 years old will now have the option to sign up as blood donors on Facebook. They will be notified when blood donor centres near them have an urgent need for donations and they can also invite friends to donate.

Zimbabwe is eighth country in Africa where Facebook has launched this feature, and it comes at a crucial time. With the Covid-19 pandemic now widespread, there is a significant drop in blood donations as people stay home to avoid infection. The World Health Organisation does say it is still safe to donate blood.

The feature is available in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Niger and South Africa. A massive 45 000 people signed up as donors in South Africa within the first month of the launch.

Kojo Boakye, public policy director of Facebook Africa. comments: “We are committed to building safe and supportive communities on Facebook during these challenging times. It is crucial to make it easy to connect people that want to donate with the opportunity to give, whilst learning about the blood donation centres around them and hopefully inspiring action within their communities.

“This is an important partnership with the National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ) and a necessary step that we believe will make a positive difference to the blood donation ecosystem in Zimbabwe.”

NBSZ spokesperson and public affairs manager Esther Massundah says: “The challenges brought by Covid-19 have necessitated the need for NBSZ to embrace new ways of blood donor mobilisation.

“The partnership with Facebook Africa is also in line with the organisation’s efforts of collaborating with value-added partners. Facebook is very popular with our blood donors and through this new platform, they will also be able to assist in the recruitment of new donors by inviting their family and friends through this new application to scheduled blood drives in the different communities.”