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Voluntary unpaid blood donations increasingly needed to meet 2020 goal

Nigeria confronted with non-availability of accurate data, practice of blood safety.

By Alex Chiejina
ABUJA (Sundiata Post) oluntary, unpaid blood donations must be increased rapidly in more than half the world’s countries in order to ensure a reliable supply of safe blood for patients whose lives depend on it, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

The theme of World Blood Donor Day “Blood connects us all”, draws attention to the role that voluntary donation systems play in encouraging people to care for one another and promote community cohesion.

The need to increase voluntary blood donations globally comes as Nigeria is confronted with the non-availability of accurate data and practice of blood safety.

Project Coordinator, Abuja centre of the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), Dr. Omo Izedonmwen revealed that there insufficient data on the exact amount of blood that is needed or utilized as NBTS estimates that about 1.5 to 1.7 million units of blood is needed annually given the current population and the level of development of Nigeria’s health system.

“It is estimated that between 1.1 to 1.3 million units of blood is collected from various sources, with more than 85 per cent coming from commercial donors. The deficit accounts for many deaths, including the death of women and children thus leading to the high maternal and child mortality rates,” Izedonmwen noted.

Every year, on June 14, countries around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day. The event serves to thank voluntary unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood and to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations to ensure quality, safety and availability of blood and blood products for patients in need.

In several countries, demand exceeds supply, and blood services face the challenge of making sufficient blood available, while also ensuring its quality and safety. An adequate supply can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary, unpaid blood donors. About 108 million blood donations are collected globally every year.

Nearly 50 percent of these blood donations are collected in high-income countries, home to less than 20% of the world’s population, according to the WHO. The average blood donation rate is more than 9 times greater in high-income countries than in low-income countries.

Regular voluntary unpaid blood donors are the foundation of a safe blood supply because they are associated with low levels of infection that can be transmitted by transfusions, including HIV and hepatitis viruses.

Around the world, 25 countries are unable to screen all donated blood for one or more of these infections due to irregular supply of test kits, staff shortages, poor quality test kits, or lack of basic quality in laboratories.

Today, only 62 countries get close to 100 percent of their national blood supplies from voluntary unpaid blood donations, with 34 countries still dependent on family donors and even paid donors for more than 75% of their blood supply.

Blood can be used whole, or separated into its component parts, such as red blood cells, platelets, plasma, and other “substances” that can be used to treat a wide range of diseases. A single unit of blood can be used to benefit several patients.

Transfusions of blood and blood products helps save millions of lives every year, including during emergencies such as conflicts and natural disasters, transfusions and childbirth. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and with higher quality of life, and supports complex medical and surgical procedures.

“Voluntary blood donors come from all walks of life but they have one thing in common: they put others before themselves — people they don’t even know. Each time they donate blood, they commit an act of selfless heroism,” Dr. Ed Kelley, Director of the Department of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO said.

World Blood Donor Day has been celebrated annually since 2004, with the aim of improving the safety and adequacy of national blood supplies by promoting a substantial increase in the number of safe, voluntary, unpaid donors who give blood regularly.

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