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On World Blood Donor Day, UN agency stresses value of voluntary donations

On World Blood Donor Day, UN agency stresses value of voluntary donations

A woman gives blood while her children look on
China and the United Arab Emirates are both close to reaching 100 per cent voluntary donations for their national blood supplies, the United Nations health agency has announced, calling on other countries to use them as models to increase their own stocks of safe blood supplies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is using this year's World Blood Donor Day, which is being observed today, to highlight the benefits of blood donations that are voluntary – rather than involving payment or family interest.

“Access to safe blood is a key component of effective health care and voluntary donors are the cornerstone of a safe blood supply,” Carissa Etienne, Assistant Director-General for Health Systems at WHO, said yesterday in a press statement. “Available, safe blood is particularly crucial to the health of women and children.”

Voluntary donors are regarded as the safest source of blood. By donating of their free will, without coercion or payment, they are less likely to hide information about their health status or behaviour that could make them ineligible to donate blood. Regular voluntary donations also ensure a more sustainable blood supply.

But only 54 countries have so far achieved 100 per cent voluntary donation, according to WHO, with Thailand, Turkey and Uganda the most recent States to join the list.

Less than 45 per cent of the global blood supply is collected in developing or transitional countries, which are home to about four-fifths of the global population. These countries also have the greatest need of stocks of blood and blood products as they bear a disproportionate burden of many diseases.

WHO said China and the UAE both deserve credit for making such rapid progress towards an entirely voluntary donation system. In 1990, no donations in the UAE were voluntary, but by 2006 they had reached 97.6 per cent, while China's rate has risen from 20 per cent to 98.5 per cent in the decade since 1998.

The theme of this year's Day is “Giving Blood Regularly,” an initiative to encourage volunteer donors to return on a regular basis over the long-term.