Message of the Regional Director of WHO in the African Region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, on the occasion of World Blood Donor Day, 14 June 2019

On 14 June every year, the African Region joins the global community to celebrate World Blood Donor Day. The theme of this year’s campaign focuses on blood donation and universal access to safe blood transfusion as a means of achieving universal health coverage. This theme strongly encourages more people all over the world to become blood donors and donate blood regularly.

This year's theme, “Safe blood for all”, draws attention to the crucial role that voluntary blood donations play in achieving the goal of universal health coverage. The commemoration of World Blood Day presents an opportunity to thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood. It also serves to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations to ensure the availability and access to safe, quality assured and affordable blood and blood components for all. Blood transfusion is as an integral part of universal health coverage and a key component of a resilient health system.

Blood transfusion is critical to achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goal 3.8, which seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Indeed, blood transfusion contributes to reducing maternal mortality and the deaths of newborns and children aged under 5; to prevent epidemics of communicable diseases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and also helps in combating hepatitis, as well deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.

In the African region, countries have made significant progress to improve the availability and access to safe and quality assured blood and blood components. However, the demand for blood transfusion is increasing and many patients still face blood shortages. For this reason, I urge countries to support voluntary blood donations as a key component of achieving universal health coverage, and to ensure a sustainable funding for national blood transfusion services.

Each year, a country in the world stands as the official host of the global event of the World Blood Donor Day. This year, a country from our Region, Rwanda, expressed its interest and its commitment to host and organize this global event. The African Region has been honoured by the Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros, who accepted to grant to Rwanda the responsibility to host this event. This honour is based on the progress that the country has made in ensuring the safety and availability of blood and blood components, and increasing the collection of blood from voluntary blood donors. The hosting of this global event in Rwanda sends a strong message to the world, in particular to the countries in our Region, that it is possible for a low-income country to develop an effective and robust blood system when governments demonstrate leadership and commitment to improve blood safety. I invite all countries that have not yet reached such a milestone to put in place active measures to strengthen and sustain national blood services to achieve universal access to safe blood.

I wish to thank all voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood and encourage them to continue this noble gesture on a regular basis to ensure the continued availability and access to safe, quality assured blood and blood components for all patients. I congratulate and express my support to all blood donor associations and other nongovernmental organizations and all those who are working to make safe blood available in healthcare facilities.

The WHO Regional Office for Africa will continue to support all initiatives aimed at ensuring universal access to safe blood. Safe blood for all.