This year, World Blood Donor Day will be celebrated on 14 June under the theme: Every blood donor is a hero.
Blood saves lives and blood transfusion can improve life expectancy and the quality of life for patients suffering from life-threatening conditions. Since the adoption of the Regional Strategy for Blood Safety in 2001, all countries of the WHO African Region have made commendable efforts to improve blood availability and blood safety.
But blood collection is still far from meeting the needs. In 2010, for needs estimated at eight million units per year, only four million units were collected. If recent reports from countries indicate that all units of blood collected for transfusion are screened for HIV, we are still behind such performance for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and other transfusion-transmissible infections.
In our region where 25% of maternal death is due to haemorrhage, where traffic accidents increase every year, and where patients continue to die from acute anaemia of different origins, there is a need to do more to increase the availability of blood where and when needed.
Giving blood is a heroic action and we can all become heroes, either by giving blood or by contributing to recruit voluntary non remunerated donors, when we cannot donate.
While recognizing the silent and unsung heroes who save lives every day through their blood donations, the theme of this year also strongly encourages more people in our region to donate blood voluntarily and regularly.
This year's commemoration gives us the opportunity to:
- encourage blood service staff to recognize blood donors for their "heroic" act each and every time they donate blood; and
- persuade ministries of health in countries to show their appreciation of blood donors and commend their heroic act.