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Positive trend in blood donation

7 lakh bags donated yearly against demand for 9 lakh

Published : 13 Jun 2021 10:45 PM

Voluntary blood donations in the country have been gradually increasing, but the total annual demand has not yet been met. 

Reports from various blood transfusion centers under public and private sectors revealed that over 700,000 units of blood were collected in 2016 against an estimated demand of 900,000.

Voluntary donations in the country only cover about 31 percent of the total need while the rest come from institutional blood donation prorammes, 60 percent of which are collected at the efforts of the private sector.

This number (31 pc) is very low, compared to other countries in South-East Asia, such as Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, where the number reaches as high as 95 percent. More than two thirds of blood donations come from relatives and friends of the patients which reflects the level of awareness and public motivation.

Experts are blaming various misconceptions, including lack of awareness and superstition, for the lack of voluntary blood donation. On the other hand, they blame the reluctance to go to blood donation centers and hospitals considering the health risks behind the decrease in charitable blood donation amid the corona pandemic period.

To emphasize the significance of donating blood voluntarily and demonstrate how it can save people around the world, the World Blood Donor Day is being observed today - June 14, like every year. 

This year's slogan, ‘Give blood and keep the world-beating,’ aims to raise awareness during a time of crisis, reaching out to all eligible donors to contribute towards maintaining supplies of safe blood. ‘By donating blood, you can save someone's life’, says the slogan.

The day was first organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in association with Red Cross on June 14 in 2005, to raise awareness on the need for safe blood and blood products, and to thank blood donors for their voluntary, life-saving gifts of blood.

Bangladesh needs about nine lakh units of blood annually. Of this, just over 7 lakh units are collected through different platforms. The margin of gap of deficiency is closing on with increased awareness on safe blood donation.

On the other hand, there has been a blood crisis in the country in recent times due to the imposed lockdown in pandemic. The situation has arisen due to the alarming decline in the number of voluntary blood donors for several lockdowns and the fear of infection, experts say.

Dr Zahedur Rahman, Medical Officer, Red Crescent Blood Bank (Mohammadpur, Dhaka) told Bangladesh Post recently, “As per the last known data, the country needs a minimum of 9 lakh unit of blood around the year and the voluntary organizations try their best to collect as much as they can.”

“But amid the pandemic, the usual collection got held back and dropped down to around 6 lakh units, since the donors tend to grow a fear of virus transmission and subsequently are unwilling to go to the hospitals and donation centers,” Dr Zahedur added.

When asked what could be done to address the continuing shortage, he replied, “There is no alternative to voluntary blood donation. Awareness needs to be raised widely among donors. People's misconceptions about blood donation must be dispelled as well.”

Doctors say, a person has four to six liters of blood in his body where usually 300 to 450 ml blood is donated as per unit. It is only a small part of the total blood in the body. In our country, any physically and mentally healthy person between the ages of 18 to 55 can donate blood.

With regular blood donation, one can be safe from the risk of heart disease or heart attack, hepatitis-B, hepatitis-C, syphilis, HIV (AIDS) or incurable cancer, high blood pressure. Naturally, the red cells of our body change every 4 months. Therefore, donating blood thrice a year does not cause any harm, but rather increases the vitality of the red blood cells in the body.

Those concerned with blood donation say that the trend of voluntary blood donors is increasing in our country, albeit slowly. In Bangladesh, 90 percent of the total blood demand is now received from voluntary blood donors. Therefore, the violence of professional blood donors, of who some are drug addicts, has decreased a lot. They say hopefully that there will be no more professional blood donors after 5 years.

The Department of Health of the Government of Bangladesh (DGHS) say the required blood is collected mainly through various hospitals and voluntary organizations across the country. Of these, voluntary organizations provide about 30 percent of the total demand and the rest comes directly from donations to the patient's relatives.

Many organizations are currently working with blood donation which include Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BRCS), Quantum Foundation, Sondhani, Badhon and Police Blood Bank. At present, 390 government and 102 privately licensed blood banks are collecting and distributing blood in the country. These centers have screening facilities for Hepatitis B-C, Syphilis, Malaria and AIDS.

Moreover, there are several blood donation groups on social media platforms. They are working online as outdoor campaigns cannot be organized due to the ongoing restrictions.

Rakib Ahsan, a resident from Shyamoli in the capital is a voluntary donor who started donating blood on his 18th birthday. He now ages 21 and already donated 18 times in between this period.

Rakib told Bangladesh Post, “Through social platform named ‘Rokto Daaner Opekkhay Bangladesh,’ I started my blood donation. Now I’m working in a team who arrange campaigns and through that, we get to manage a huge number of donors every day. 

“We have advance donors who register for donation whenever and wherever someone needs blood in the near future,” he added.

“University goers and people aged between 20-30 are the most of the donors who come forward eagerly,” he replied when asked who the main donors were.

Tumpa Moni, another regular donor, started donating last year amid the pandemic. She was inspired to start donating through a facebook group.

Experts call for voluntary donation, as it’s safer than the blood of professional ones. They further say that if one percent of our population donates blood voluntarily, there will be a surplus of blood. This requires making young people aware of blood donation.