A donor gives blood at a blood bank. File picture: Matthew Jordaan
Have you had a family member or close friend who suffered from a life-threatening condition and felt powerless to help them? Then you can identify with the plight of thousands of South African families whose ill relatives depend on blood transfusions. Your blood donation could literally mean the difference between life and death for a person with a life-threatening condition or an accident survivor

On, Thursday, 14 June - World Blood Donor Day - t he  South African National Blood Service (SANBS) launched a new campaign encouraging South Africans to become regular blood donors.

World Blood Donor Day highlights the need to maintain a stable supply of healthy, safe blood and blood products  while encouraging people to become regular donors. It’s also an opportunity to thank the volunteers whose donations of blood save and enhance the lives of people.

Jacob Mohapi has received blood on two occasions due to horrific car accidents. Thanks to South Africa’s dedicated pool of blood donors, Jacob was able to get the blood he needed to survive. “It really is an awesome thing to do,” he says of the donation which has enabled him to keep providing for his son Thabang.

Jacob has added his voice to that of thousands of South Africans with life-threatening conditions in calling for eligible members of the public to become regular blood donors. As Jacob's case illustrates, blood donations go way beyond just the person who receives the blood. It’s not just blood: it’s keeping families together.

“The best gift you can give anyone is the gift of life. We know that South Africans have huge hearts and we call on them to fully embrace the spirit of this year’s World Blood Donor Day theme: ‘Be there for someone else. Give blood. Share life’,” says Silungile Mlambo, the SANBS’s chief marketing officer.

The theme emphasises “blood donation as an act of solidarity” with our fellow human beings, highlighting the fundamental values of empathy and kindness that underpin the selfless act of blood donation, according to the World Health Organisation.

“Out of South Africa’s population of 56-million people, only about 1% donate blood regularly. This blood is used by every person living in this country who needs a transfusion during an operation or after being involved in an accident,” Mlambo says.

Despite the steady pool of regular donors, more volunteers are needed to ensure that the SANBS' target of 3 300 units per day is maintained. “In particular, this Youth Month we are appealing to young, healthy South Africans to make donating blood a lifestyle choice,” adds Mlambo.

This year World Blood Donor Day coincides with the #MissingType campaign, which runs from 11 to 18 June 2018. The SANBS is asking organisations to remove the letters A, B and O (symbolising the “missing” blood types with the same letters) from their logos for a week to raise awareness of the need for new blood donors. All South Africans can join in by temporarily deleting the As, Bs and Os from their social media handles.

Where does the donated blood go?

There is a common misperception that most of the blood donated in South Africa goes to accident victims. This is not the case. Here is a rough breakdown from the SANBS of where the blood it collects is used:

* 28% is used to treat cancer and aplastic anaemia

* 27% is used during childbirth

* 21% is used for scheduled surgery

* 10% is used for paediatric care

* 6% goes to laboratories

* 6% is used for orthopaedic care

* 4% is used for accident or trauma victims

Visit www.sanbs.org.za or call 0800 11 90 31 to find out where you can donate blood on World Blood Donor Day. Join the #MissingType conversation on Twitter (@theSANBS), Facebook (@SANBS) and Instagram (@thesanbs).