As the world celebrates World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) on Tuesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has charged African governments and political leaders to prioritise the provision of resources to improve blood transfusion services.
In her message to mark the annual event on Tuesday, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, noted that blood donation services have been frustrated in Africa due to “staff shortages and limited funding from governments and partner organisations for effective blood donor education, recruitment, and retention.”
Compared to other regions globally, Ms Moeti said the African region sees a disproportionate number of conditions requiring donor blood, impacting as many as seven million patients every year.
She cited examples of the health conditions which include haemorrhage associated with pregnancy and childbirth, severe anaemia due to malaria and malnutrition, bone marrow and inherited blood disorders, trauma and accidents, as well as man-made and natural disasters.
Speaking further on access to blood donations, she noted that in the African region, demand regularly outstrips supply, which she noted negatively delays access for patients who need safe and quality-assured blood to save their lives.
Ms Moeti added that as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, voluntary unpaid blood donations dropped significantly, citing Malawi as an example, where a 46 per cent decrease in donations is said to have been recorded.
In 2021 on WBDD, she also highlighted how the pandemic significantly reduced the number of donors across the world, particularly in Africa
She said: “Over the past year, blood stocks decreased in the African region as movement restrictions and fears of infection hindered people from accessing donation sites.
“The average blood donation rate dropped by 17 per cent and the frequency of blood drives reduced by 25 per cent. Demand for blood also decreased by 13 per cent with the suspension of routine surgeries in some countries and fewer people seeking care in health facilities.”
However, she noted that some countries across the region have worked hard to improve blood donation frequency and that the situation is showing signs of stabilising.
“Blood transfusion services in many countries reached out to blood donors through public awareness campaigns, transporting donors from and to their homes, using digital platforms and establishing call centres,” she said.
Speaking further, she emphasised the need for the government to invest in blood transfusion services in Africa.
She said: “As WHO in the African region, we provide support to countries at various levels, including resource mobilisation for the implementation of national blood transfusion plans, advocacy for integrating blood safety in these plans and strengthening the legal and regulatory framework for blood safety.
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“On World Blood Donor Day today, I urge African governments and political leaders to prioritise the provision of adequate human and financial resources to secure the future of national blood transfusion services. A blood service that gives patients access to safe blood and blood products, in sufficient quantities, is a key component of an effective health system.”
Ms Moeti added that the government in partnerships and collaborations with media, the private sector, and faith-based and non-governmental organisations, will help increase the recruitment and retention of voluntary unpaid blood donors.
She also appreciated “Africa’s blood donors for their selfless contribution to national health systems, through this life-saving gift to patients who need transfusion therapy.”
“Donating blood is an act of solidarity. By becoming a blood donor, you will help ease the pressure on health systems still struggling under the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
Focus of this year’s campaign
Every year on June 14, countries around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day (WBDD). The event, which was established in 2004, serves to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank blood donors for their voluntary, life-saving gifts of blood.
With the theme, “Donating blood is an act of solidarity. Join the effort and save lives”, this year’s campaign seeks to highlight the critical role of voluntary blood donations in saving lives and enhancing community solidarity and social cohesion.
In a publication on its website, the WHO gave the specific objectives of this year’s campaign, hosted by Mexico through its National Blood Centre.
The WHO said in parts that the campaign “highlights the need for committed, year-round blood donation, to maintain adequate supplies and achieve universal and timely access to safe blood transfusion
“To recognise and promote the values of voluntary unpaid blood donation in enhancing community solidarity and social cohesion.
“To raise awareness of the need for increased investment from governments to build a sustainable and resilient national blood system and increase collection from voluntary non-remunerated blood donors.”
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