Temie Giwa-Tubosun is on a mission to fight Nigeria and Africa’s disturbing cases of blood shortage with a health tech startup – LifeBank. LifeBank is an online platform that helps hospitals directly connect to blood banks and delivers it for them in a timely fashion and in good condition.
“We’re like Amazon for blood banks,” she says. “Once we have their order, we deploy it where it’s needed, using motorbikes and trucks.”
Giwa-Tubosun’s creation of the health tech startup didn’t come out of the blue. It was influenced by her personal experience when she went into labor.
The journey to starting of LifeBank started somewhere in 2014. Giwa-Tubosun on Valentine’s Day gave birth to her son, Eniafe in Minnesota in the U.S. where her parents live. Eniafe is a name among the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria and it means – “the one we love.”
Eniafe’s birth was complicated. He came seven weeks early and weighed just two pounds at birth. Giwa-Tubosun and son both required critical care. “I realized how easy it would have been to die in Nigeria,” she recollects in a chat with Newsweek.
The country has a high maternal mortality rate and the leading cause of those deaths is postpartum hemorrhage – the loss of too much blood within 24 hours after a woman has given birth.
Between 2005 and 2015, it is estimated that over 600, 000 maternal deaths and no less than 900, 000 maternal near-miss cases occurred in the country.
According to WHO, in 2015, Nigeria’s estimated maternal mortality ratio was over 800 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births, with approximately 58 000 maternal deaths during that year. What the statistics tell us is that the need for blood is urgent.
In Lagos for instance, only 43 percent of the 185,000 pints of blood required each year are collected. The shortage means that efficiently getting the available plasma from blood banks to needy patients is crucial. To address this need, Giwa-Tubosun launched LifeBank, an e-health app connecting blood banks with hospitals in Lagos.
Since beginning in Lagos in 2015, LifeBank has moved 17,563 pints to 884 hospitals and saved at least 5,717 lives. Giwa-Tubosun has already expanded into oxygen delivery and hopes to add vaccines and anti-venom.
“This is a thing that needs to exist,” Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in 2016 when he met Giwa-Tubosun in Lagos. “If she can actually pull it off, she’ll show a model that will impact not just Lagos, not just Nigeria, but countries all around the world.”
Speaking to Lioness of Africa Giwa-Tubosun says “blood is not wanted it is needed” and LifeBank is an essential service in the healthcare setting. “It is true that shortage of blood at the point of care deeply affects the most vulnerable citizens; pregnant women, children, emergency victims, and people suffering from chronic diseases such as sickle cell anemia and or cancer,” she says.
“LifeBank helps anyone in Nigeria who needs blood delivered fast to any hospital in the Nation either for scheduled procedures or emergency transfusions. Our main focus is to help women hemorrhaging during delivery, children with major illnesses that need a blood transfusion, accident victims, cancer, sickle cell anemia, and surgery patients, and people in major accidents,” she adds.