World Blood Day is celebrated on June 14 annually, while the theme for 2021 is:
“Give blood and keep the world-beating”.
The World Health Organisation says blood stocks in the African region have declined over the last year as fewer people have been donating blood during the COVID – 19 pandemic
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, regional director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for Africa, said this was due to travel restrictions and fears of infection that prevented individuals from reaching donation centres.
“There are still around seven million patients who need this vital product in African countries every year,” she said.
She said the safety of the blood and its transfusion are essential aspects of providing quality care to save mothers suffering from haemorrhages during childbirth and those suffering from serious injuries.
“Blood is needed for surgical procedures, as well as to treat severe anaemia, inherited blood disorders and other conditions.
“Blood can only be stored for a limited time and therefore a constant supply of donations is important to ensure that adequate blood products are always available,” she said.
She said that as part of the COVID-19 response, 10 African countries are studying the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma therapy (CCP).
Moeti said that among them are Ethiopia, Guinea and Mauritius, which have collected CCP for compassionate use and randomized controlled trials are underway in South Africa and Uganda.
Moeti said the day was also a time to thank and appreciate the voluntary and unpaid blood donors for this life-saving gift.
Moeti said the rate of blood donations fell 17% while the frequency of blood drives fell by 25%.
She said the demand for blood had also fallen by 13% with the suspension of routine surgeries in some countries and fewer people seeking care in health facilities.
“However, even during the pandemic, blood donors in many countries have made extraordinary efforts to keep donating blood.
“Awareness-raising campaigns supported by the collaboration of donor associations, civil society organizations and the armed and security forces have led to good levels of recruitment of voluntary donors in eight African countries,” she declared.
According to her, WHO is working with a range of stakeholders to improve access to quality blood supplies.
“We are encouraging more young people to donate blood to save lives and to inspire their peers and families to do so too,” Moeti said.
She said that in some countries, according to national guidelines, people aged 16 and 17 can donate blood with the consent of their parents or guardians, and in all countries, anyone over 18 can save the blood. someone’s life by donating blood.
She, therefore, urged governments, in collaboration with blood donor associations and NGOs, to put in place the systems and infrastructure necessary to increase blood collection from voluntary donors.