Speech on the occasion of World Blood Donor Day 2009 - Towards 100% voluntary blood donation
Dr Jean-Marc Olivé, WHO Representative to Viet Nam
It is a WHO principle that access to safe blood should be a universal right. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, especially in developing countries.
According to our figures, more than 80 million units of blood are donated every year, but only 38 % are collected in developing countries where 82 % of the global population lives. Some 60 % of the global blood supply goes to only 18 % of the world's population and most of them are in developed countries.
In 2004, WHO and the IFRCRC created World Blood Donor Day to draw attention to this issue. There will be events across the world to mark World Blood Donor Day on 14th June and this year the main global event will be held in Australia by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.
We are here today to promote the act of voluntary non-remunerated blood donation which is a humanitarian, altruistic and community based act. In almost every country around the world, there is a move toward achieving 100% voluntary blood donation. Blood donors are literally the lifeblood of a community and are considered by WHO, IFRCRC and other health bodies to be the safest source of blood.
Maintaining a strong, continuous voluntary blood donor pool is critical to ensuring that there is a robust blood supply to meet patients’ needs 365 days a year, whether their needs are for scheduled treatments or for emergencies.
In Viet Nam, since 1994 there has been a program focused on increasing the number of voluntary blood donations and which has made a lot of progress.
For example, you have more than trebled the total number of donations collected and you have increased from <15% to >70% the rate of voluntary donations. This is very impressive and WHO congratulates all the agencies and individuals that have contributed to this strong and steady increase.
However, we have a lot more to do.
For example, the increase is mostly as a result of intensive campaigns in the major cities where the rate of voluntary blood donation often exceeds 80 or 90%. However, in many rural areas the rate of voluntary blood donation can be as low as 20% or even 10%. We need to expand the successful drive for voluntary blood donations from the cities to smaller towns and rural areas.
Secondly, we still only collect about 40% of the total need for blood. There are also often critical shortages in the summer months and during the Tet holiday period when the rate of blood donation drops significantly. Still patients die sometimes because of lack of blood or even inappropriate use of blood. Many of these patients are women and children from poor, rural areas. It is especially important therefore that we increase the total number of voluntary blood donations collected across the whole country.
And thirdly, we need to expand the act of voluntary blood donation to wider parts of society. Currently, 70-80% of the blood donor base is of people under 35 years old. Students and young people are the most vigorous donors and we sincerely thank them for their efforts. However, people from all sectors of society need blood. The program for voluntary blood donation therefore needs to be expanded to other sectors of society. The benefits are available for all sectors of society, so all sectors should donate.
So, we strongly urge people to come forward to donate and then to donate regularly. And please feel free to bring a friend or family member too.
The theme for this years' WBDD is "Towards 100% Voluntary Blood Donation". We are therefore making two clear recommendations to the Government of Vietnam.
The first is to make a clear and visible commitment to 100% Voluntary non-remunerated blood donation by introducing a Blood Donation Law which, over a realistic but progressive timescale, phases out family/replacement donations and eliminates paid donations. Achievement of 100% VNRBD through this law will lead to self-sufficiency in blood from the safest types of donors.
The second recommendation is to strengthen the national blood program. The current program, as I said before, has been very successful to date. However, to make further progress it needs to be further strengthened.
A national blood policy is required to define the roles and responsibilities of the health sector and the civic sector in blood donor recruitment to ensure improved coordination between them.
Blood donor recruitment needs to be further professionalised if we are to achieve 100% VNRBD.
This requires a larger budget so that the cadre of volunteers can be directed by salaried professional staff and to focus on innovative and more community level activities rather than an over-reliance on high profile promotional events. Such a change in strategy WHO believes will lead to the development of a more sustainable pool of blood donors.
Finally, the national blood donor program urgently requires development of national blood donor registry so that information on blood donors can be shared between the health and civic sectors. But also, improved data management will improve donor targeting, donor retention and risk reduction.
Everybody should know that donating blood does not hurt. It is safe and it does not make you unwell or weak. So, please do not be afraid. When you have donated you will also feel good in your heart. Following your first experience of giving blood we urge you return and donate blood again. The more regular donors that can be recruited, the safer and more secure the blood supply will be.
There a number of events that have been organised across Viet Nam to mark World Blood Donor Day. Many of these events recognise and honour existing donors. This is of course very important but we also need to strongly promote the act of voluntary blood donation. So, for the Press that are here today I urge you to publicise these events as widely as possible. This is especially important as we move into the summer where shortages are common. For individuals I also urge you to give your attention to this issue and make a commitment to become a blood donor and preferably a regular blood donor.
WHO would like to recognise the many organisations such as the Ministry of Health, the Viet Nam Red Cross, the Youth Union, the Students Union, the Women's Union and the Health Bureau of every Province that work hard to promote voluntary blood donation. We salute your efforts and encourage you to continue to expand the number of voluntary blood donors, especially regular blood donors, across the whole country.
And finally WHO would like to thank all existing blood donors. They are all heroes and life savers and we salute them.
But now we need more heroes and life savers, so please, give blood regularly, and safe a life.