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Safe blood donation key to maternal and child health, UN agency says

Safe blood donation key to maternal and child health, UN agency says

Voluntary blood donors help prevent the death and improve the health of millions of women and their newborns around the world, the United Nations health agency said today.

“Increasing the number of voluntary blood donors to give blood regularly is important all around the world,” says Dr. Neelam Dhingra, Coordinator, Blood Transfusion Safety, UN World Health Organization (WHO) said in a news release on the occasion of World Blood Donor Day.

“Safe Blood for Safe Motherhood” is the theme of this year’s Day, which Dr. Dhingra said is part of a larger international campaign “to ensure safe blood will always be available to every patient who needs transfusion as part of their treatment.”

According to WHO, more than half a million women die each year during pregnancy, childbirth or in the postpartum period – 99 per cent of them in the developing world. An estimated 25 per cent of those deaths are caused by severe bleeding.

The impact that access to safe blood can have on health outcomes for pregnant women with severe bleeding is illustrated by Malawi, where the maternal mortality rate due to severe blood loss had fallen by more than 50 per cent in 2005, following the establishment of the Malawi Blood Transfusion Service two years earlier.

Highlighting the “major imbalance” between developing and industrialized countries in access to safe blood, WHO noted that only 45 per cent of the global blood supply is collected in developing countries, which are home to more than 80 per cent of the world’s population.

Improved access to safe blood and safe blood transfusion can not only help millions of women and their newborns, said WHO, but is a vital component of global efforts to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals – a set of anti-poverty targets agreed to by world leaders in 2000.

At an observance of the Day in Washington, D.C., hosted by WHO’s regional office – the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) – child cancer survivors from the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean today thanked voluntary blood donors for helping to save their lives.

“Blood donors are very special to me because they helped me during my battle with cancer five years ago,” said 12-year-old Balee Wahl, of the United States, who suffered from Ewings Sarcoma in her left lower leg and needed repeated blood transfusions during her treatment.

Four other children at today’s observance required blood transfusions during their treatment for cancer, and underscored the key role played by regular, voluntary blood donors in ensuring that safe blood is readily available to patients who need it.