“Safe Blood Saves Lives”

Blood donation saves millions of lives annually and helps with the recovery and health of patients who have illnesses or injuries, complex operations or childbirth problems. The average adult has about ten pints of blood, but a typical whole-blood donation is only one pint.

The importance of blood to the human body cannot be overestimated hence the universal need for safe blood from blood donors. This is critical both for treatments and urgent interventions. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and with a higher quality of life as well as supporting complex medical and surgical procedures and has an essential, life-saving role in maternal and neonatal care. However, access to safe blood is still a privilege of the few. Most low- and middle-income countries struggle to make safe blood available because donations are low and equipment to test blood scarce.

There is a marked difference in the level of access to blood between low- and high-income countries. The indicator for the general availability of blood statistically shows that there are 32.6 donations per 1000 people in high-income countries and 4.4 donations per 1000 people in low-income countries.

An adequate supply of safe blood can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary unpaid blood donors; an increasing recognition worldwide that giving blood is a life-saving act of solidarity and that services providing safe blood and blood products are an essential element of every health care system. In addition to doing something good for others, donating blood also offers positive health benefits to donors. Studies have shown that donating blood can improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of a heart attack.

Donating whole blood takes only about 10-15 minutes. In order to donate blood, the donor must be in good general health, weigh at least 110 pounds (50kg), and be at least 18 years old. Eat a good breakfast or lunch, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of sleep the night before donating blood. Everyone who is eligible can donate blood, but the stipulated guidelines must be strictly adhered to, as there are factors that can prevent an individual from being a blood donor. These include but are not limited to certain health conditions, medications, certain international travels, tattoos and piercings, pregnancy and anaemia.

Globally, an increase of 11.6 million blood donations from voluntary unpaid donors was reported from 2008 to 2015, with the highest increase recorded in the south-east Asian region (83%) and the lowest in the African region (9%). Clearly, a poor blood donation culture exists in sub-Saharan Africa and several studies have shown that this is fuelled by religious, spiritual and superstitious beliefs.

When blood is withdrawn, the donor’s body immediately begins to replenish the lost blood. New cells are produced by the marrow within 48 hours of donation, and the red blood cells lost during donation are completely replaced. Donating blood to save someone’s life is indirectly saving your own. Give blood and make the world a healthier place!

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