Since blood can’t be manufactured, it is essential to maintain a significant stock of blood collected from unpaid donors and volunteers. A dedicated national blood donation service at various levels should be institutionalized.
On 14th June every year, the World Health Organization and its member countries observe World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) to raise awareness about the safety of blood and blood products. It aims to express gratitude to blood donors around the world who play an important role in saving millions of lives. This year’s slogan-What can you do? Give blood. Give now. Give often aligns well with the campaign that focuses on supply and availability of blood in times of contingencies. The slogan is basically divided into two parts. The first references a common question that individuals usually pose when asked to respond to emergencies. The second addresses that question and also serves as a clarion call to every healthy adult to donate blood on a regular basis.
Unlike regular circumstances, emergencies propel the demand for blood transfusion exponentially. Every year, natural and man-made calamities affect millions of people around the world. It has been estimated that disasters claimed close to 1 million lives in the last decade alone. In 2015, more than 1,500 people in India lost their lives to natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, cyclones, forest fires etc. In such circumstances, survivors often suffer from severe bleeding and require immediate medical attention along with blood transfusion.
To tackle the surge in demand in such a situation, it is imperative to develop a mechanism wherein supply of blood and blood products can be resumed as soon as possible. Since blood can’t be manufactured, it is essential to maintain a significant stock of blood collected from unpaid donors and volunteers. A dedicated national blood donation service along with its various affiliates at provincial, municipal and village levels should be institutionalized. Ensuring sufficient and steady supply of blood in emergencies calls for a system of non-remunerated volunteer-based blood donation. This can be accomplished by fostering a culture of community-driven initiatives highlighting the benefits of carrying out voluntary and unpaid blood donation campaigns throughout the year.
Nevertheless, all this is easier said than done. With regards to India, a lot of work remains to be done to espouse the cause of blood donation. The gap between demand and supply of blood is yawning. According to figures released by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there was a shortage of 1.1 million units of blood in 2015-16. This quantity is enough to fill 35 tanker-trucks of 11,000 liters capacity with each unit being 350 ml. Ironically, certain states and cities with surplus blood witnessed wastage. For instance, in response to an RTI query, it was reported that 63 blood banks in Mumbai discarded more than 1,30,000 liters of blood between January, 2011 and December, 2015 because the blood was “too old” to be used.
The present state of affairs should behoove the concerned government authorities and NGOs to swing into action and take measures to improve the situation. Beside conducting blood donation camps at regular intervals, efforts must be undertaken to improve storage, safety and transportation of blood and blood products. A well defined policy framework must be enacted to incorporate blood transfusion services as part of disaster management response. Emphasis should be laid to improve coordination amongst blood banks at various levels. Public awareness activities aimed at busting certain myths associated with blood transfusion should be carried out. Measures must be implemented to ensure health care services continue to operate in times of duress. If these objectives are realized, then it is highly likely that India will be able to achieve self-sufficiency of blood.
At Fiinovation, actions speak louder than words. Since the past four years, we have been organizing blood donation camps on our foundation day. In 2016, the company tied up with Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital to organize a blood donation camp where our employees collectively donated more than 120 units of blood. We believe that mere observance of WBDD won’t bring about much of a difference to improve the prevailing situation. Rather than simply waiting for government or civil society organizations to do something, we should instead do our bit by donating blood after every 56 days while continuing to propagate the virtues of blood donation to those who may harbor doubts about blood donation. That would do a greater good.