The importance of donating safe blood cannot be over-emphasied as it helps to save lives of millions of health threatening life.
Safe blood and its transfusion are key aspects in providing quality care to save mothers haemorrhaging during childbirth and people with serious injuries. Blood is also needed for surgical procedures, as well as to treat severe anaemia, inherited blood disorders, and other conditions.
As such every year specifically, 14 June, the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World Blood Donor Day to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products, like plasma. It is also a day to thank and appreciate voluntary, unpaid blood donors for this life-saving gift.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti in his message to mark this years celebration commended all voluntary and unpaid blood donors adding that their efforts has helped to save lives that would have been lost if bloods were not readily available.
According to him, This year’s theme is “Give blood and keep the world beating” adding that fewer people have been donating blood during the COVID-19 pandemic and there are still around seven million patients who require this life-saving product in African countries every year.
“Blood can only be stored for a limited time and so a steady supply of donations is important to make sure adequate blood products are always available.
Over the past year, blood stocks decreased in the African Region as movement restrictions and fears of infection hindered people from accessing donation sites. The average blood donation rate dropped by 17% and the frequency of blood drives reduced by 25%. Demand for blood also decreased by 13% with the suspension of routine surgeries in some countries and fewer people seeking care in health facilities.
He further added that WHO is working with a range of stakeholders to improve access to quality blood supplies. “We have partnered with the Coalition of Blood for Africa (CoBA), launched in November 2020, to drive this agenda, including engaging the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) and the private sector. The BloodSafe Program funded by the United States of America National Institutes of Health supports research to enhance availability of safe blood in African countries. Through this partnership, research projects in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi are underway in collaboration with universities in the United States.
“In partnership with Facebook, we have set-up a Regional Blood Donations feature, which connects people with nearby blood banks. The tool is now live in 12 countries and over 3.8 million Facebook users have signed-up to be notified of blood donation opportunities.
“We are encouraging more young people to donate blood to save lives and to inspire their peers and families to do so too. In some countries, in line with national guidance, people aged 16 and 17 can donate blood with their parent’s or guardian’s consent, and in all countries anyone over 18 can save someone’s life by donating blood.
Dr. Moeti however urged governments, in collaboration with blood donor associations and nongovernmental organizations, to put in place the systems and infrastructure needed to increase the collection of blood from voluntary donors.
“To all those who have donated blood, I thank you, and I encourage everyone to give this life-saving gift.