Working towards self-sufficiency in safe blood and blood products

News release

On World Blood Donor Day (14 June), the World Health Organization (WHO) urges governments to strengthen national blood systems and take concrete steps to attain self-sufficiency in safe blood and blood products based on 100% voluntary unpaid blood donation.

“On the 10th anniversary of World Blood Donor Day, I encourage all countries in the Region to support national blood systems in building stable bases of voluntary, unpaid donors who regularly give blood,” says WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo. “Demand for blood continues to grow faster than supply, a fact that makes safe blood more precious than ever and today’s message even more urgent.”

Providing safe and adequate blood through well-organized national blood systems should be an integral part of every country’s national health-care policy. Without these, the infrastructure and the human and financial resources needed to ensure the availability of sufficient supplies of safe blood and blood products are unlikely to be provided.

Transfusions of blood and blood products help save millions of lives every year. A single unit of donated blood can save up to three lives. Blood transfusions can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live a longer and higher quality life. It also has an essential, life-saving role in the care of mothers and young children.

A stable base of regular, voluntary, unpaid donors is the cornerstone of a safe, adequate and reliable blood supply. Regular voluntary donors are the safest source of blood because they are motivated by altruism and a sense of moral duty or social responsibility. The only reward they receive is personal satisfaction, self-esteem and pride.

On the other hand, paid donors are vulnerable to exploitation and commercialization of the human body, as they are usually poor and become paid donors due to economic difficulties. Any form of exploitation of blood donors—including payment for blood, coercion and the collection of blood from institutionalized or marginalized communities, such as prisoners—diminishes the true value of blood donation.

WHO’s goal for all countries is to obtain all their blood supplies from 100% voluntary unpaid donors by 2020.

Globally, 62 countries obtain all their blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donors. However, 40 countries collect less than 25% of their blood supplies from voluntary unpaid blood donors. A significant proportion of the blood supply in these counties remains dependent on family/replacement and paid blood donors.

In the Western Pacific Region, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cook Islands, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Niue, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Tokelau and Tuvalu have all achieved 100% voluntary unpaid blood donation.

WHO remains at the forefront of improving blood safety and availability. The Organization recommends that all blood donations undergo mandatory screening for HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis prior to the release of blood and blood components, such as cell concentrates, plasma, and cryoprecipitate and platelet concentrates for clinical or manufacturing use.

WHO’s strategy for blood safety and availability addresses five key areas:

  • the establishment of well-organized, nationally-coordinated blood transfusion services to ensure the timely availability of safe blood and blood products for all patients requiring transfusion;
  • the collection of blood from voluntary unpaid blood donors from low-risk populations;
  • quality-assured testing for transfusion-transmitted infections, blood grouping and compatibility testing;
  • the safe and appropriate use of blood and a reduction in unnecessary transfusions; and
  • quality systems covering the entire transfusion process, from donor recruitment to the follow-up of transfusion recipients.

For more information, please contact:

Dr Klara Tisocki
Team Leader, Essential Medicines and Health Technologies
Tel: +632 528 9026

Mr Timothy O’Leary
Public Information Officer
Tel: +632 528 9992