ImportanceOf Blood Donation


The just marked World Blood Donor Day last Friday, June 14, again, raised pertinent issues relating to the relevance of blood donation in the healthcare delivery system. The event, established in 2004, serves to raise awareness on the need for safe blood and blood products, and to thank blood donors for their voluntary, life-saving gifts. The importance of this service becomes evident when an emergency case arises and that is the more reason why the world must not wait until such a time because it may be too late. The day is also one of the special days set aside by the United Nations to draw attention to an issue of international importance.
In some countries, especially in Africa, there is an inadequate supply of safe blood. Even more challenging to blood services is making sufficient blood available while also ensuring its quality and safety. Health authorities posit that an adequate supply can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary unpaid blood donors. It is in this regard that the World Health Organisation (WHO) set a goal for all countries to obtain all their blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donors by 2020. In 2014, 60 countries were reported to have their national blood supplies based on 99-100 per cent voluntary unpaid blood donations, with 73 countries still largely dependent on family and paid donors.
There is no gainsaying that blood is an important resource, both for planned treatments and urgent interventions. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and with a higher quality of life, and supports complex medical and surgical procedures. Blood is also vital for treating the wounded during emergencies of all kinds and has an essential life-saving role in maternal and pre-natal care.
A blood service that gives patients access to safe blood and blood products in sufficient quantity is a key component of an effective health system. Ensuring safe and sufficient blood supplies requires the development of a nationally coordinated blood transfusion service based on voluntary non-remunerated blood donations. However, in Nigeria, blood services face the challenge of making sufficient blood available, while also ensuring its quality and safety.
It is against this backdrop that The Tide welcomes the theme for this year’s campaign,‘Safe blood for all’, which serves to thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood, and to also raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to affordable and timely supplies of safe and quality-assured blood and blood products, as an integral part of universal health coverage and a key component of effective health systems.
We call on government at all levels to see this year’s event as a wakeup call to evolve policies and programmes aimed at strengthening the emergency preparedness of health services in our communities by donating blood; establishment of effective national blood donor programmes with the capacity to respond promptly to the increase in blood demand during emergencies; promote the inclusion ofsafe blood transfusion services in national emergency preparedness and response activities.
Also, Nigeria should adhere to the call by the World Health Organisation, WHO,to every country on the need to ensure that supplies of blood and blood products are sufficient and free from HIV, hepatitis viruses and other infections.
It is on record that about 112.5 million units of donated blood are collected globally every year. Interestingly, nearly 47 per cent of these blood donations are collected in high-income countries, home to less than 19 per cent of the world’s population. It is pertinent to note that the lives and health of millions of people are affected by emergencies every year. In the last decade, it is believed that disasters have caused more than one million deaths, with more than 250 million people being affected by emergencies every year, most of them man-made.
To this extent, therefore, blood transfusion becomes an essential component of emergency health care. Adequate supply of blood during emergencies requires a well-organised blood service, and this can only be ensured by engaging the entire community and a blood donor population committed to voluntary unpaid blood donation throughout the year.
It is heartwarming that this year’s campaign, which focuses on safe blood for all, underlines the role every single person can play in helping others in emergency situations, by giving the valuable gift of blood while stressing on the importance to give safe blood regularly, so that the blood stock is sufficient before an emergency arises.
There is no gain saying the fact that the attitude of Nigerians towards blood donation has been unsatisfactory. For instance, whereas an estimated 1,336,000 units of blood is needed by Nigerians to survive, only 1,130,000 units are collected annually.
This shortage had also led to numerous preventable deaths, especially among women, children and people living with certain diseases. Furthermore, in Nigeria 60% of all blood donations are from commercial donors, 30% from family replacement and only 10% from voluntary donors.
We therefore urge government and other stakeholders in the health sector to build wider public awareness of the need for committed, year-round blood donation, in order to maintain adequate supplies and achieve a national self-sufficiency of blood; celebrate and thank individuals who donate blood regularly and encourage young people to become new donors as well.Nigerians should know that blood is key to survival and that when you donate blood you give life and that absence of blood is equivalent to death.
Experts say when a donor donates blood, the bone marrow comes alive and gives the donor fresher, newer blood. This fact should also be made known to Nigerians.
While we join the rest of the world to celebrate World Blood Donor Day, it is essential that everyone should support the campaign on voluntary blood donation.