World Blood Donor Day: UN health agency calls for more people to give voluntarily

14 June 2012

Marking World Blood Donor Day, and amidst a growing global need for blood donations, the UN health agency today called for more people to come forward to give blood voluntarily and regularly.

“With increasing life expectancy and the subsequent increase in the number of age-related, chronic diseases, including cancers, that require blood and blood products for treatment, demand outstrips supply,” the Coordinator for Blood Transfusion Safety at the World Health Organization, Dr. Neelam Dhingra, said in a news release.

“In addition, some blood products used to treat cancer patients, like platelets, have a shelf-life of only five days. This means we increasingly need more blood donors to meet these demands,” she added.

According to WHO, the need for blood and blood products is rising in all parts of the world. In high- and middle-income countries, with advancements in health-care systems and improved health coverage, this need is being driven by increasingly sophisticated medical and surgical procedures, such as cardiovascular and transplant surgery, trauma care and therapy for cancer and blood disorders.

In addition, severe bleeding during delivery or after childbirth is the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. When severe bleeding occurs, urgent and timely treatment is required for management of these patients, including transfusion of blood and blood products, as women may die within one hour.

In low-income countries, where diagnostic facilities and treatment options are limited, the majority of transfusions are prescribed for the treatment of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, the management of severe childhood anaemia, trauma and congenital blood disorders. In many situations, current health systems are unable to meet the needs, while expansion of health coverage and improved access to health services further increases these demands.

WHO notes that there are 92 million blood donations globally each year, with most of these by voluntary, unpaid donors. Of these voluntary donors, 30 million give blood once, and then do not return.

“We need to encourage these donors to come back and become repeat, regular donors,” Dr. Dhingra said. “Each blood donation is only 450 millilitres and by having more repeat voluntary donors, we can better assure the reliability of blood supply and safety of blood and blood products.”

In the news release, WHO also noted that there are 62 countries which can meet their transfusion needs of their health-care systems and many more are making rapid progress.


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