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World Blood Donor Day: Give blood, give plasma, share life, share often

by Public Health Update

World Blood Donor Day: By Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia

Blood is the very source of existence for all humans. Globally, blood transfusions save millions of lives annually and enhance the life expectancy and quality of life of patients with life-threatening conditions, some of whom require regular transfusions for the rest of their lives.  Blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person – the gift of life. A decision to donate blood can save a life, or even several if blood is separated into its components – red cells, platelets and plasma – which can be used individually for patients with specific conditions. Blood and blood products are required for the treatment of blood dyscrasias, surgeries, obstetric complications, and as a treatment supplement for various diseases.

Availability of quality-assured, safe blood and blood products in a sustainable way is therefore essential for a resilient health system. This sustained availability of safe and quality blood can be ensured through unpaid voluntary blood donation.

In 2005, the World Health Assembly designated June 14 as World Blood Donor Day. Since then, every year countries around the world have observed this day to thank blood donors for their noble acts and to create awareness to promote voluntary, safe, and non-remunerated blood donations to ensure sufficient safe blood supplies.

In the South-East Asia (SEA) Region, around 19.4 million units of blood are collected, which constitutes around 0.94% of the region’s population donating blood. Ideally, any country’s requirement for safe blood can be met easily if 1 to 3 percent of the total population donates regularly. Of the eleven member states, only three have achieved 100% voluntary non remunerated donations (VNRDs) while the rest of the member states are striving to achieve 100% VNRDs (average of 82% VNRDs in SEA Region). 100% of donated blood is tested for transfusion-transmitted diseases.

Blood component separation maximizes the utility of  whole blood unit. Presently, more than half of SEA Region member states segregate red blood cells and platelets from whole blood. A great volume of plasma is discarded due to the absence of uniformly good-quality plasma and the lack of plasma fractionation facilities. In SEAR, only a few countries produce plasma-derived medicinal products (PDMPs). The rest of the countries import PDMPs. WHO is supporting member states in establishing the capacity for plasma fractionation and stopping the wastage of plasma. To support this initiative, WHO has published “Guidance on Increasing Supply of PDMPs in LMICs Through Fractionation of Domestic Plasma”.

The slogan for 2023 World Blood Donor Day campaign is “Give blood, give plasma, share life, share often.” It highlights the importance of giving blood or plasma regularly to create a safe and sustainable supply of blood and blood products that can be always available, all over the world, so that all patients in need can receive timely life saving treatment. The criteria for donor selection varies from country to country, but blood can be donated by most people who are healthy and do not have an infection that can be transmitted through their blood. Blood donation does not cause weakness. As per published literature, Blood volume( plasma) is replenished within 24-48 hrs. Red blood cells are replenished in 3-4 weeks in healthy adults after donation.

Promotion of voluntary donation is sought to ensure supply of quality & safe blood, while promoting community solidarity. To encourage regular VNRD, it is essential for policymakers to adequately fund public outreach initiatives for blood services to reach new donors for recruitment and encourage regular donations. It will be desirable to organize blood donation camps in Universities. In addition, national blood policy must focus on donor health and the quality of donor care as critical factors in building donor commitment and a willingness to donate regularly.

A potent message for society and community leaders: blood donation is a life-saving act of solidarity that every healthy adult individual in line with national  donor recruitment criteria can  perform. Promoting donation of  blood as a civic duty is a good approach for health leaders to promote community buy-in for extensive voluntary blood donation and the required grassroots engagement. It is unacceptable for any community to lack access to secure blood products and services, regardless of location.

This year’s slogan also passes on a message to health care workers to use this very precious resource rationally. By separating blood into its numerous components (e.g., plasma, red blood cells, platelets, etc.), a single unit of blood can benefit multiple patients, and each patient receives only that blood component that they need.

World Blood Donor Day is commemorated to thank the altruistic acts of selflessness of voluntary blood donors and  celebrate life and humanity. This also sets an example for potential new donors.

In this philanthropic act, every stakeholder at the sub-national, national, regional, and global levels must come together to invest in, strengthen, and sustain national blood programmes and ensure the availability of safe blood and blood products to all who need it.

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