World Blood Donor Day – “Thank You for Saving My Life”


Human Wrongs Watch

On World Blood Donor Day -14 June 2015- the UN World Health Organization (WHO) called for increased regular blood donations from voluntary, unpaid donors in order to save millions of lives globally each year. Per example, nearly 800 women die every day from causes related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Access to safe blood supplies and blood transfusions are essential to save their lives 

Medical technicians organize and process donated blood at Hanoi Blood Transfusion Center in Viet Nam. Photo: World Bank/Dominic Chavez | Source: UN

“The best way to guarantee a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood products for transfusion is to have a good supply of regular donations by voluntary unpaid blood donors,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan in the agency’s press release on the Day, which is marked every year on 14 June.*

The theme of this year’s campaign is Thank You for Saving My Life, with the slogan, ‘Give freely, give often. Blood donation matters.’

The host country for World Blood Donor Day is China, which hosted a global event on 14 June at the Shanghai Blood Centre.

Transfusion of blood and blood products helps patients suffering from life-threatening conditions to live longer and maintain a higher quality of life, and it supports complex medical and surgical procedures. It has an essential, life-saving role in maternal and child care and during man-made and natural disasters, such as the recent earthquakes in Nepal.

Severe bleeding during pregnancy, delivery or after childbirth is the single biggest cause of maternal death.

Of the 289 000 women who died in childbirth in 2013 due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, 27 per cent were due to severe bleeding.

“Blood collection from voluntary, unpaid donors, whose blood is screened for infections, is the cornerstone of a safe and sufficient blood supply in all countries,” says Dr. Hernan Montenegro, who works at the Department of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO. “More voluntary blood donors are needed to meet the increasing needs and to improve access to this life-saving therapy.”

The percentage of blood donations from voluntary unpaid donors has been increasing over the last decade and 73 of the world’s countries now collect over 90 per cent of their blood supply from such donors.

However, more progress is needed, with 72 countries still collecting more than half of their blood supply from paid donors or replacement donors, which affects safety and adequate supply of blood and blood products. Replacement donors are often family members or friends who replenish blood used from a blood bank by a particular patient.

“Safe blood transfusion is one of the key life-saving interventions that should be available for patients in need,” says Dr. Edward Kelley, Director of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO.

“Yet, equitable access to safe blood still remains a major challenge in many countries. Providing safe and adequate supplies of blood and blood products should be an essential part of every country’s national health care policy and infrastructure.”

WHO provides policy guidance and technical assistance to support countries in developing national blood systems based on voluntary unpaid blood donations, and implementing quality systems to ensure that safe and quality blood and blood products are available and used appropriately for all people who need them. (*Source: UN).

UN Appeals for Safe blood to Save Mothers

With nearly 800 women dying every day from causes related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth, the United Nations health agency is marking World Blood Donor Day by calling on countries to improve access to safe blood supplies and blood transfusions to save the lives of those mothers in need.**

A blood donation in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: UNFPA

World Blood Donor Day provides a yearly opportunity to highlight the lifesaving role of voluntary unpaid blood donors and also to thank those donors who give this precious gift to save millions of lives every year.

This year’s theme, ‘Safe Blood for Saving Mothers,’ aims to increase awareness on how timely access to safe blood and blood products is essential for all countries as part of a comprehensive approach to prevent maternal deaths.

“When a new mother dies, not only does her baby face greater risk of death, malnourishment and lifelong disadvantage, but the whole family’s wellbeing is affected,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) in her remarks on the Day.

According to WHO, severe bleeding during pregnancy, delivery or after childbirth is the single biggest cause of maternal death and can kill a healthy woman within 2 hours if she is unattended. Urgent access to safe supplies of blood for transfusion is critical to saving these women’s lives.

“If all obstetric facilities provided safe blood for transfusion, many of these mothers’ lives could be saved,” adds Ms. Chan.

The global event for this year’s day will be held in the city of Colombo in Sri Lanka, which has successfully reached a self-sufficient blood supply within the last decade, a great role model for those countries unable to provide clean blood and still highly depended on foreign supplies.

Donated blood is collected every year from around 108 million units around the world. However, nearly half of these donations are only from high-income countries.

A resolution adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2010 stressed the importance of campaigning for a secure supply of safe blood based on local voluntary blood donation, where safest source of blood is believed to be from regular, voluntary unpaid donors whose blood is screened for infections.

WHO has recently called all countries to receive their entire blood supply from voluntary unpaid donors by 2020 and it has encouraged them, and their national and international partners, to work on blood transfusion and maternal health to develop an activity plan to highlight the need for timely access to safe blood.

The campaign also promotes the screening for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis of all donated blood prior to transfusion. What has emerged, however, is that in many countries, testing is often not reliable because of irregular supply of test kits, staff shortages, poor quality test kits, or lack of basic quality in laboratories.

Moreover, WHO says that some 25 countries are not able to screen all donated blood for one or more of these infections, showing how the need for timely access to safe blood and blood products in the prevention of maternal deaths is a major priority.

In countries like the Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world and the lowest blood donation rate, the blood collected is likely to cover only less then half demand.

According to Dr. Edward Kelly, Director of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO, today access to safe blood remains indeed a major issue to be overcome. He suggested that “safe blood transfusion is one of the key life-saving interventions that should be available in all facilities that provide emergency obstetric care.” (**Source: UN). 

2015 Human Wrongs Watch


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