According to an international bone marrow centre, only one in four black patients’ have a chance of ever finding a lifesaving match.  

The Deutsche Knochenmark Spenderdatei (DKMS) Africa hosted a blood stem cell campaign on Friday, August 5 at the Library Lawns on East Campus to both raise awareness about stem cell donations and attempt to recruit new donors.  

Witsies gathered at the DKSM gazebo on the Library lawns to sign up as potential donors. Photo: Malaika Ditabo

DKMS regional recruitment manager, Kedibone Zulu, said of their 17 000 donors in Africa the majority, 12 580 are Caucasian donors, while the remaining 4 420 are people of colour, representing only 26% of active donors.   

DKMS is a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping patients fight against blood cancer and related disorders such as leukaemia, myeloma and lymphoma. These disorders block out the entry of healthy blood cells and often require blood transplants.  

According to DKMS Africa, patients often find a match amongst people of the same ethnicity. Zulu, however, said that the lack of diverse donors has left many African patients without viable matches for years on end.   

Thirty-six-year-old, Thabo Maleka can attest. He was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia in 2019 and has been searching for a match since. Maleka suspects his long wait, and the lack of African donors is because, “information doesn’t reach them [African donors] and there is less awareness in our communities”.  

To tackle this gap in African donors Maleka said, “We need [more] dedicated people who will avail themselves to our communities with information.” 

Monde Lwane, a third-year health systems student at Wits University who was seated under the DKMS gazebo filling in the donor forms, shares that he was not aware of blood stem donations. Lwane said he donated “to balance the scales that exist between different ethnic groups”.   

Wits was just one of many stops for DKMS’s recruitment drive, next they will target schools, churches, corporate spaces and other higher learning institutions where interested individuals can sign up and give a sample of their DNA.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Students signing up and listening to a presentation by DKMS. Photo: Malaika Ditabo