CAIRO – 13 June 2017: World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) is celebrated annually on 14 June. It marks the birthday of Karl Landsteiner in 1868. Landsteiner was a Nobel Prize winning scientist for his discovery of the ABO blood group system.
Marking this day started in 2004 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS).
Later, in May 2005 at the 58th World Health Assembly, the WHO and its 192 member states officially established the day to thank blood donors for their life-saving gift and to promote blood donation to ensure sufficient blood supplies.
World Blood Donation Day aims to raise awareness and social responsibility related to the need for voluntary and unpaid safe blood donation by healthy persons. Blood donors are the key players in this event as they donate life-saving blood to those who need it.
Voluntary blood donors give blood and receive no payment for it. Their efforts include time off work and costs related to transportation. Their conscious decision to donate is motivated by their desire to help others, and by a sense of social responsibility.
Blood transfusion helps patients suffering from a variety of life-threatening health conditions to live longer and with better quality of life. It contributes to reducing mortality rate related to insufficient blood supply. Furthermore, it supports some complex medical and surgical procedures. Examples of complex cases in which blood transfusion can play a vital role include saving life of mothers and babies pre and post pregnancy, severely anemic women, anemic children, accident victims, surgical patients, cancerous patients, thalassemia patients, people suffering from the hemophilia, sickle cell anemia, blood disorders, blood clotting disorders and injuries related to natural disasters and armed conflicts.
Around the world, there is a constant need for regular blood supply because blood can be stored for only a limited time before use. Regular blood donations from healthy people ensure that safe blood is available whenever and wherever it is needed.
“Blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person — the gift of life. A decision to donate your blood can save a life, or even several if your blood is separated into its components — red cells, platelets and plasma — which can be used individually for patients with specific conditions,” says the WHO.
Statistics from the WHO reveal that 800 women die due to malnourishment during pregnancy, childbirth related complications and severe bleeding during or after delivery. The IFRCS reports that, to date, 54 countries, including resource-limited countries, have achieved a national blood supply based on 100 percent voluntary donation. Some 40 countries still depend on blood donations from the patient’s family members or paid donors.
Increasing the promotion of voluntary blood donation will help shift the responsibility for blood provision to the health care system and can contribute to discouraging people from selling their blood.
The WHO mentions some of its objectives on the level of blood donation. The agency aims to obtain sufficient blood supplies from the voluntary and unpaid blood donors all over the world by 2020.
The WHO seized WBDD to promote not only safe blood donation processes but also blood screening before transfusion. This goes in line with 2030 Sustainable Development Goal No. 3 and its target 3.3 that focuses on major infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS (1.2 million deaths), tuberculosis aka TB (1.1 million deaths) and malaria (438 000 deaths). The agency reports that 24 percent of blood donations in low-income countries are not screened for one or more of these viruses.
To celebrate the day, health care organizations and government agencies work jointly to organize international and national programs to promote blood donation and the goal behind the initiative.
Key health care organizations include WHO, IFRCS, the International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations (IFBDO), the International Society of Blood Transfusion (ISBT) and the Council of Europe. The activities include organizing honorary events, meetings, discussions, publishing relevant stories through various media platforms, conferences, sports activities and other promotional activities in public places including schools, universities and sports clubs.
The Framework for Global Action on Blood Donation The WHO and the IFRCS developed a framework for global action to achieve 100 percent voluntary blood donation in every country. The aim of the framework is to strengthen national blood donor programs to build a stable pool of the safest possible blood donors. It is based on the recognition that voluntary blood donation is the foundation of a safe, sustainable blood supply.
The framework for global action will be considered for review within five years. It has four main strategic areas: Establishment of national blood donor programs based on 100 percent voluntary donation, creating a culture of voluntary blood donation through communication and education, and celebration of World Blood Donor Day (WBDD), building a stable blood donor pool by motivating and recruiting new donors from low-risk populations, and encouraging existing or lapsed donors to become regular donors and to recognize the contribution to society made by blood donors, and providing quality donor care, so that blood donation is not onerous.
2017 World Blood Donor Day theme People are affected by emergencies every year. Every year during the last decade more than 250 million people were affected by emergencies that caused more than 1 million deaths. Blood transfusion is an essential component of emergency health care. Emergencies increase the demand for blood transfusion and make its delivery challenging and complex. Adequate supply of blood during emergencies requires a well-organized blood service, and this can only be ensured by the inclusion of the community and a blood donor population committed to voluntary unpaid blood donation throughout the year.
This year’s WBDD is hosted by Viet Nam and focuses on blood donation in emergencies. The slogan for the 2017 campaign is: What can you do?, with the secondary message: Give blood. Give now. Give often.
The 2017 campaign encourages all people to strengthen the emergency preparedness of health services in their community by donating blood, engages authorities in the establishment of effective national blood donor programs with the capacity to respond promptly to the increase in blood demand during emergencies, promotes 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, and promotes international collaboration ensure worldwide dissemination of and consensus on the principles of voluntary non-remunerated donation, while increasing blood safety and availability.