Organ donation takes healthy organs and tissues from a donor and transplants them into a recipient. Most donations occur after the donor has died but some can be donated while alive. Organs cannot be stored and must be used within hours of removing them from the donor's body.
Internal organs that you can donate include kidneys, liver, pancreas, heart, intestines and lungs. Transplantation is often used to treat end-stage kidney disease. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney and pancreas transplantation.
People with either acute or chronic liver failure may need a liver transplant to survive. Most often, chronic liver failure is the result of alcoholism that has produced scarring of the liver called cirrhosis. Patients selected for heart transplants have severe end-stage heart failure that is caused by a variety of cardiovascular diseases, hereditary conditions and viral infections of the heart.
Other donatable tissues include blood, stem cells, veins, skin, bone, cornea, skin and heart valves. Cartilage, tendons and ligaments can also be used to mend damaged tissues in recipients.
Blood donation is one of the greatest needs in the African Region. Donated blood is often used to treat pregnancy-related complications, anaemia, sickle cell disease and malaria. Thirty-eight countries in the Region report collecting fewer than 10 donations per 1000 population.