If there is one lady that is revolutionising Nigeria nay Africa’s healthcare delivery system, it is Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder of LifeBank.
The thirty-five year old political science and international health systems management graduate is the founder of LifeBank, a healthcare logistics company with headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria that leverages the power of technology to collect blood from registered blood banks and deliver it to patients in need of it in hospitals.
Founded in 2016, LifeBank has gone on to play a critical role in the delivery of a much needed and essential ingredient in delivery of healthcare, blood. So important is it that sometimes it could be the sole deciding factor that determines whether a patient lives or dies.
LifeBank has, in the past few years, distributed more than 26,000 pints of blood to more than 10,000 patients in about 700 hospitals in Nigeria alone. It presently operates in 8 Nigerian states and Kenya.
Of the innovation, Meta (formerly Facebook) founder, Mark Zuckerberg in 2016 said when it just launched, “This is a thing [LifeBank] that needs to exist. 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.”
That is exactly what Temie Giwa has gone on to do as the innovation has quickly spread across Nigeria and a presence in Kenya.
The startup, which is unlike many others that presently flood the technology space, was one that quickly caught on simply because it was an idea that sought to provide an essential service that hitherto was unattended to.
“Because there was already a huge gap, we were able to grow quickly in our first year. It was like we were solving a problem people didn’t even know they had,” she said of LifeBank in 2017.
The importance of Temie Giwa’s solution is best seen when one considers the data on maternal mortality in Nigeria.
Data on maternal mortality
According to BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, maternal mortality is still a major risk for women of childbearing age in Nigeria. In 2008 alone, Nigeria recorded 14% of the global burden of maternal mortality.
Also, postpartum haemorrhage, which is the loss of 500 ml or more of blood within 24 hours after birth, is a major cause of death of women in Nigeria and around the world. This is more pronounced in developing countries around the world.
In Nigeria, blood shortages contribute to the deaths of 152,000 anaemic children and 37,000 pregnant women each year and are responsible for innumerable complications for women shortly after childbirth.
It is also on record that Nigeria has the highest maternal mortality rate in Africa and second in the world after India.
Inspired to save lives
According to Temi Giwa, the inspiration to set up LifBank came about during her own experience while giving birth in the US. According to her, in 2014, she had a premature delivery of her son in a hospital in Minnesota, United States. She describes the delivery process as “complicated and harrowing.”
Lying on the hospital bed, she wondered how such an experience would have gone for her if she was not able to afford medical attention in an advanced country as the U.S. She wondered about the fate of other women who are not so opportuned to have such an excellent healthcare system when giving birth usually is.
The birth of her son inspired her to try to figure out how maternal mortality could be resolved “once and for all.”
During her bed rest, she revealed that she realised that the leading global cause of maternal mortality is postpartum haemorrhage. Eight out of 10 women who die from childbirth could be saved if blood was readily made available. Thus, the mission was birthed.
“I started LifeBank because I wanted a world where women no longer died from preventable causes like postpartum haemorrhage,” she says.
Quick access to blood that matches the patients’ type that will help sustain their body long enough until it learns to clot was vital. And so, the key is to get the blood to the hospitals quickly enough, and this is where LifBank comes in.
“To get blood to the hospital, the customer journey starts with inventory. Everything starts with inventory. So from blood, to oxygen, anything that we do starts with that inventory. And then the next thing is matching that supply that we’ve got into the demand that hospitals have,” she says.
How LifeBank solves this challenge
LifeBank thus employs the services of motorbike drivers who are easily recognisable and who quickly dash out with these supplies across the streets of Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
The company has now gone beyond just providing blood as it now delivers medical oxygen and health consumables to about 1,200 hospitals across the countries in which it operates. It has also been involved in COVID-19 testing.
To place orders, hospitals with access to the internet place orders via the web, while rural hospitals use USSD code service provisioning to place orders. Hospitals can also call in as they operate a 24-hour call centre in these countries.
The future for LifeBank
On what the future plans are for LifeBank, Temie Giwa while speaking with TV presenter Katie Couric during the 2020 Global Citizen Prize special said:
“I have great, big, giant, audacious dreams for LifeBank. The problem we are solving is not only a Nigerian problem or an African problem, it’s a problem that exists in developing countries — countries that have not figured out their infrastructure.
“For me the work is to build a scalable, fast-growing business that can expand to all these locations around the globe where these problems still exist, saving lives and saving lives at scale,” she continued. “That is the dream and we are willing to do the work to get there.”