By Shalini Bhardwaj
To mark World Blood Donor Day, the WHO has urged potential blood donors across the world to "join the effort" to save lives, improve health and advance health equity by making regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donations.
According to Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, "An estimated 118.5 million blood donations are collected worldwide, of which around 40 percent are collected from high-income countries, home to just 16 percent of the world's population.
In low-income countries, a majority of blood transfusions are given to children under five years of age, and to manage pregnancy-related complications, making regular donations by voluntary unpaid donors a critical tool in the fight against maternal, neonatal and child mortality."
"An estimated two million more units of blood are urgently required from voluntary unpaid donors in the region to help patients of all ages live longer and with a higher quality of life, to support complex medical and surgical procedures, and to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage (UHC), health system resilience and Health for All," Singh said.
According to the WHO Regional Director, throughout the Covid-19 response, all the donated blood was screened for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis, and more than 80 percent was collected from voluntary unpaid donors.
From 2008 to 2018, the region reported the highest proportional increase in voluntary unpaid blood donations among all WHO regions and the second-highest increase in absolute numbers.
Singh further emphasised national action plans for blood donation. She said that several priorities require attention. The first one is the policymakers and programme managers.
They should reappraise and, where appropriate, update national blood action plans while mobilising adequate and reliable financing to implement the same.
"Secondly, health facility administrators and managers should increase health workers capacity to safely collect, store and administer blood and blood products, instilling a culture of quality that encompasses all aspects of the chain of blood transfusion," he said.
"Third, policymakers should standardise data collection and reporting and implement uniform systems for traceability, surveillance, haemovigilance, and pharmacovigilance for both public and private sector providers.
“Programme managers, educators, and civil society groups should increase awareness of the benefits of regular blood donation, especially among youth, who should be encouraged to make blood donation a habit," WHO Regional Director added.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh also suggested data collection and awareness for blood donation.