On the eve of World Blood Donor Day, the WHO on Monday urged eligible people in countries in its South-East Asia Region and across the world to join the effort to save lives, improve health and advance health equity by making regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donations.
An estimated 118.5 million blood donations are collected worldwide, of which around 40 per cent are collected from high-income countries, home to just 16 per cent of the world’s population, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia Region, said.
In low-income countries, a majority of blood transfusions are given to children under five years of age and to manage pregnancy-related complications, making regular donations by voluntary unpaid donors a critical tool in the fight against maternal, neonatal and child mortality, she said.
“An estimated 2 million more units of blood are urgently required from voluntary unpaid donors in the region to help patients of all ages live longer and with a higher quality of life, to support complex medical and surgical procedures, and to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage (UHC), health system resilience and Health for All,” she said in a statement.
Throughout the COVID-19 response, countries of the region have continued to implement national blood policies, with a focus on maintaining essential blood donation and transfusion services, increasing the quality of donor care, enhancing the clinical use of blood, and strengthening oversight and surveillance of the chain of blood transfusion, she said.
All blood donated in the region is screened for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis, and more than 80 per cent of it is collected from voluntary unpaid donors. From 2008 to 2018, the region reported the highest proportional increase of voluntary unpaid blood donations among all WHO regions, and the second-highest increase in absolute numbers, the WHO Regional Director highlighted.
Amid the pandemic response, the WHO has conducted a series of online training to increase the capacity of member states to achieve the outputs of the WHO Action Framework to advance universal access to safe, effective and quality-assured blood products, as well as the WHO’s five-year plan to help build effective and efficient regulatory systems.
Several priorities require targeted attention, she said.
First, policy makers and programme managers should reappraise and where appropriate update national blood action plans while mobilising adequate and reliable financing to implement the same.
Second, health facility administrators and managers should increase health worker capacity to safely collect, store and administer blood and blood products, instilling a culture of quality that encompasses all aspects of the chain of blood transfusion, she stated.
Third, policy makers should standardize data collection and reporting and implement uniform systems for traceability, surveillance, haemovigilance and pharmacovigilance for both public and private sector providers. Fourth, programme managers, educators and civil society groups should increase awareness of the benefits of regular blood donation, especially among the youth, who should be encouraged to make blood donation a habit, Khetrapal Singh stated.
By establishing a stable base of regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donors, and by securing the chain of blood transfusion, communities and countries in the region can ensure all people have timely and equitable access to safe, effective, and quality-assured blood and blood products, the statement said