Message from WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti
On 14 June every year, the global community marks World Blood Donor Day to focus on the gift of life from voluntary unpaid blood donors around the world. Once again, we, as WHO in the African Region, join the call for more people to become regular blood donors.
This year’s theme, Donating blood is an act of solidarity. Join the effort and save lives, highlights the critical role of voluntary blood donations in saving lives, and enhancing community solidarity and social cohesion. Donating just one unit of blood can save the lives of up to three patients.
Compared to other Regions globally, the African Region sees a disproportionate number of conditions requiring donor blood, impacting as many as seven million patients every year. Examples include haemorrhage associated with pregnancy and childbirth, severe anaemia due to malaria and malnutrition, bone marrow and inherited blood disorders, trauma and accidents, as well as man-made and natural disasters.
While the need for donor blood is universal, access for everyone who needs it is not. In the African Region, demand regularly outstrips supply, negatively impacting timely access for all patients who need safe and quality-assured blood to save their lives.
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, voluntary unpaid blood donations dropped significantly. Malawi, for example, registered a 46% decrease in donations.
Countries across the African Region have worked hard to improve blood donation frequency, and the situation is showing signs of stabilizing. Blood transfusion services in many countries reached out to blood donors through public awareness campaigns, transporting donors from and to their homes, using digital platforms and establishing call centres.
The situation remains challenging, and it is exacerbated by issues such as staff shortages and limited funding from governments and partners organizations for effective blood donor education, recruitment, and retention.
As WHO in the African Region, we provide support to countries at various levels, including resource mobilization for the implementation of national blood transfusion plans, advocacy for integrating blood safety in these plans, and strengthening the legal and regulatory framework for blood safety.
On World Blood Donor Day today, I urge African governments and political leaders to prioritize the provision of adequate human and financial resources to secure the future of national blood transfusion services. A blood service that gives patients access to safe blood and blood products, in sufficient quantities, is a key component of an effective health system.
Seeking out opportunities for partnerships and collaborations with media, the private sector, and faith-based and non-governmental organizations, will help increase the recruitment and retention of voluntary unpaid blood donors.
I want to sincerely thank Africa’s blood donors for their selfless contribution to national health systems, through this life-saving gift to patients who need transfusion therapy.
I also want to acknowledge the tireless efforts of blood services staff who are deeply committed to maintaining critical blood supplies, of the research and development professionals pursuing new technologies and uses for donated blood, as well as the medical teams who use blood rationally to save lives.
Donating blood is an act of solidarity. By becoming a blood donor, you will help ease the pressure on health systems still struggling under the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO Fact Sheet: Blood Safety
14 June is World Blood Donor Day
World Blood Donor Day 2021
Blood donation during COVID-19 pandemic
WHO Action Framework to Advance Universal Access to Quality and Safe Blood and Blood Components for Transfusion and Plasma Derived Medicinal Products 2019