Voluntary, unpaid blood donations must be increased rapidly in more than half the world’s countries in order to ensure a reliable supply of safe blood for patients whose lives depend on it, World Health Organization (WHO officials announced in a prepared statement released today.
WHO made their announcement today, on World Blood Donor Day, a day which is seeing hundreds of people lining up in Orlando, following the tragic shooting there yesterday. The day’s slogan, “Share life, give blood”, draws attention to the role that voluntary donation systems play in encouraging people to care for one another and promoting community cohesion, WHO officials wrote in the statement.
About 108 million blood donations are collected globally every year. Nearly 50% of these blood donations are collected in high-income countries, home to less than 20% of the world’s population. The average blood donation rate is more than 9 times greater in high-income countries than in low-income countries.
However, in many countries, demand exceeds supply, and blood services face the challenge of making sufficient blood available, while also ensuring its quality and safety. An adequate supply can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary, unpaid blood donors.
Regular voluntary unpaid blood donors are the foundation of a safe blood supply because they are associated with low levels of infection that can be transmitted by transfusions, including HIV and hepatitis viruses, WHO officials said in the statement. Around the world, 25 countries are unable to screen all donated blood for one or more of these infections due to irregular supply of test kits, staff shortages, poor quality test kits, or lack of basic quality in laboratories.
WHO encourages all countries to establish blood services based on full voluntary non-remunerated blood donations. Today, only 62 countries get close to 100% of their national blood supplies from voluntary unpaid blood donations, with 34 countries still dependent on family donors and even paid donors for more than 75% of their blood supply.