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WHO Celebrates 20 Years of Blood Donation

Vulnerable people, such as mothers during childbirth, undernourished and malaria-affected children, victims of trauma and accidents, and patients suffering from sickle cell and other chronic diseases, particularly benefit from this care. 

June 2024, marks 20 years of blood donation worldwide and it is being celebrated under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) under the theme, “20 years of celebrating giving: thank you, blood donors!”

“The 20th anniversary of world blood donation is an excellent and timely opportunity to thank blood donors across the world for their life-saving donations over the years and honour the profound impact on both patients and donors. It is also a timely moment to address continued challenges, and accelerate progress towards a future where safe blood transfusion is universally accessible,” the world body says. 

According to the WHO, safe blood not only saves lives but also regular blood donation by a sufficient number of healthy people is needed to ensure that blood will always be available whenever and wherever it is needed. 

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In the words of the WHO Regional Director for Southeast Asia, Saima Wazed asserted the critical importance of blood transfusion in local and global healthcare.

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“Blood transfusion plays a critical role in healthcare, benefiting patients in need of blood and its components who face life-threatening conditions. Transfusions help patients live longer and with a better quality of life. They support complex medical and surgical procedures, making them indispensable in maternal and childcare, as well as during natural or man-made disasters,” she said.

She continued to add that, due to varying demands of blood in some parts of the world, it’s made it difficult to keep up with blood supply in those areas,” she added.

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“Unfortunately, in many countries, demand exceeds supply, posing a challenge for blood services to make sufficient blood available while ensuring its quality and safety. Voluntary unpaid blood donations are the foundation of a safe and sufficient blood supply,” she added.

Saima Wazed further encouraged Member States to provide resources and infrastructure to facilitate voluntary blood donation, and to support the development of nationally coordinated blood transfusion services that provide equitable access to safe and quality assured blood transfusions for the whole population”. 

Explaining further, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said that blood transfusion plays a critical role in the provision of lifesaving healthcare. Vulnerable people, such as mothers during childbirth, undernourished and malaria-affected children, victims of trauma and accidents, and patients suffering from sickle cell and other chronic diseases, particularly benefit from this care. 

“We join the international community to mark the selfless act of donating blood. World Blood Donor Day is not merely a date on the calendar; it is a celebration of altruism, empathy, and social responsibility. It is a day to acknowledge and honour blood donors whose acts help save the lives of others,” he said.

Dr Moeti called on African countries to address the persistent challenges in the availability of safe blood and blood products. She added that through collective efforts, they must raise adequate and sustainable funding, continue to build systems and capacities to increase blood donation rates, and separate donated blood into its components that can be stored for long-term use.

“Currently, African countries collect only 5.2 units of blood for every 1,000 people, below the ten donations or more per 1,000 people recommended by WHO and far from the 33 units of blood per 1,000 people collected in developed countries. In addition, only 18 out of 47 countries had reached the regional target of at least 80% of blood supply from Voluntary Non-Remunerated Blood Donors. Yet, the demand for blood remains constant, while the supply often falls short”, Dr Moeti stated.

On the local level, the Chief Executive of the National Blood Service, Dr Justina Kordai Ansah, appealed to all Ghanaians to commit themselves to year-round blood donations to maintain adequate supplies and achieve national self-sufficiency of blood. 

According to her, the government’s introduction of the drone system in the delivery of blood to hitherto inaccessible areas is a game-changer in the delivery of blood during emergencies.

“We believe this intervention is timely and appropriate as it comes at a time the World Health Assembly Resolution is recognizing the importance of voluntary blood donation on the global health agenda at the highest level,” Dr Kordai Ansah said. 

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