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Thursday, 14 June 2012

Message of the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Gomes Sambo, on the occasion of World Blood Donor Day 2012

Message of the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Gomes Sambo, on the occasion of World Blood Donor Day 2012

Each year, on June 14, we commemorate World Blood Donor Day. This event provides an opportunity to draw public attention to the importance of blood donation in saving lives. The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Every blood donor is a hero”.
This theme acknowledges the heroic gesture of donating blood to save lives and encourages all healthy people to voluntarily donate blood. It also draws attention to the importance of mobilizing adequate resources to support efforts to achieve 100% voluntary blood donations. Safe and adequate supplies of blood are needed to save lives because blood is often the only means of survival. However in the African Region a significant number of patients needing transfusion do not have timely access to safe blood.  Blood- transmitted diseases, haemorrhage and anaemia during difficult childbirth, road accidents, and others are evidence of the scale of the unmet need in the region.
A lot of progress has been made in the WHO African Region since the adoption of the regional strategy on blood safety in 2001. Many countries developed policies as well as implementation plans to ensure the provision of adequate safe blood supply by improving blood donor recruitment, testing of blood, appropriate clinical use of blood and establishment of quality systems. However, it is regrettable that others are far from reaching the target of collecting at least 80% of donated blood from voluntary and regular donors. Today, about 20 out of the 46 countries of the WHO African Region collect more than 50% of their units of blood from replacement family donors. In spite of the laudable efforts and progress in recent years, the total units of blood collected remain inadequate.
Improving the health of the people is an essential component in the sustainable development of every country. Safe blood donations play a vital role particularly in the effective and prompt provision of care for women, children and men suffering from haemorrhage and severe anaemia. In recognition of this, WHO adopted a number of resolutions urging Member States to organize their blood services in a manner that will minimize the occurrence of untoward effects while ensuring adequate safe blood supply for their populations. While yearly needs are estimated at 8 million units of blood, countries of the Region are able to collect only a half of the required quantity. The gap to be filled is still substantial especially in rural areas where the majority of the population and patients live.
Donating blood is an act of generosity, solidarity and humanism. Furthermore, this year’s theme reminds us that it is indeed an act of heroism that brings immense joy to blood donors whose sole aim is to give back life and hope to patients who would otherwise not survive without this selfless act. While thanking all voluntary donors for their loyalty and commitment, I appeal to everyone to emulate this gesture by donating blood to ensure that there is adequate supply in health facilities.
As we commemorate World Blood Donor Day, I call upon countries to accelerate efforts in mapping out new strategies to convert family donors into voluntary, regular donors because they constitute the cornerstone of any reliable and sustainable blood transfusion system. We should also redouble our efforts to raise public awareness of the importance of blood donation, the recruitment and retention of new donors to ensure availability of blood in a sustainable way by blood transfusion services.
For its part, the WHO Regional Office for Africa will continue to support all initiatives helping to improve blood transfusion safety in general and to increase blood collection from voluntary and regular donors in particular.

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