Speech by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific on Behalf of WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan at World Blood Donor Day Celebrations

Seoul, Republic of Korea
14 June 2012





I would like to thank the Government of the Republic of Korea for hosting this event for World Blood Donor Day 2012 and inviting WHO to participate.

I am speaking today on behalf of the World Health Organization Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, who regrets not being able to attend.

First, we would like to congratulate the Republic of Korea and the National Red Cross for commemorating the day by creating the world's largest drop of blood, made up of more than 3000 people dressed in red assembled in the shape of a drop.

In 2000, WHO made blood safety a high priority with the slogan: Safe blood starts with me, blood saves lives.

Then in 2005 the World Health Assembly designated this day as World Blood Donor Day to promote voluntary unpaid blood donation.

Specifically, we hope to inspire people

........ to express gratitude for those who donate blood voluntarily…

........ to encourage both current voluntary donors and others to give blood regularly

........ to promote national voluntary programmes and eliminate dependency on family members and paid donors

........ and to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donation throughout the year in order to maintain adequate supplies for patients requiring transfusions.

On this day, we recognize the “gift of life” made possible by voluntary blood donors.

Millions of people owe their lives to these dedicated individuals.
The theme of this year’s World Blood Donor Day is: Every blood donor is a hero.

Indeed, every one of us can become a hero by giving blood, and by recognizing the unsung heroes who save lives every day through their donations.

Voluntary blood donors come from all walks of life.

But they have one thing in common: they put others before themselves — people they don't even know.

Each time they donate blood, they commit an act of selfless heroism.

Please join me in a special applause to thank all the silent heroes who voluntarily donate blood in the world today.

World Blood Donor Day is a time for all countries to focus on how to best support national blood programmes in building stable bases of voluntary unpaid donors who regularly give blood.

We all recognize the necessity of blood transfusions.

We all know that blood needs to be safe, readily available and rationally used.

However, most people in the world do not have access to safe blood.

And demand for blood continues to grow faster than supply, a fact that makes safe blood more precious than ever and makes today's message more urgent than ever.

Sadly, women and children are affected most by shortages.

Severe blood loss from childbirth is the most common cause of death among mothers in the Region.

Access to safe blood could help prevent up to one in four maternal mortalities in the Region.

A lack of safe blood supplies also means that lives are needlessly lost among victims of anaemia, dengue and trauma, among others.

Advocacy for safe blood practices is stronger than ever. Still, too many countries depend upon paid blood donations and not all countries screen all donated blood for HIV and hepatitis B and C.

Today, in 62 countries, national blood supplies are sourced through 100% voluntary unpaid blood donations.

Another 40 countries collect less than a quarter of their blood supplies from voluntary unpaid blood donors.

The Republic of Korea has been particularly successful. Starting in 1974 with the Korean Red Cross voluntary blood donor programme, the country achieved sustainable 100% voluntary blood donation by 1981.

As a Korean, it is an honour to congratulate the people and the Government on behalf of the World Health Organization. Our goal is for all countries to reach this milestone of fulfilling all blood needs from voluntary unpaid donors by 2020.

World Blood Donor Day allows countries to share experiences and develop plans for strengthening donor programmes and building participation.

Four international agencies come together today to stress the need for more voluntary unpaid blood donations.

They are WHO — of course — the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Society of Blood Transfusion, and the International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations.

WHO is committed to working closely with partner organizations and stakeholders to make universal access to safe blood a reality.

We encourage people to make blood donation a regular part of their lives. With all the tremendous advances in science, we still cannot artificially synthesize blood.

A fellow human has to make it then give it away.
We can all be that hero who gives blood!

Again, I would like to thank the Korean Government for hosting this global event.

We also appreciate the gracious commitment from the Government of France to host World Blood Donor Day next year.

Thank you.