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World Blood Donor Day 2006

Most countries fall short of ensuring a safe blood supply but some progress made

The world is making slow progress towards the goal of 100% unpaid, voluntary blood donation, falling short of ensuring the safety and the sustainability of blood supplies. Most developing countries still depend on paid donors or family member donors. However, some countries such as China, Malaysia and India have shown progress in the last two years by applying stricter principles within their AIDS prevention programmes.

On World Blood Donor Day, 14 June, the World Health Organization (WHO) publishes findings from its most recent global survey on blood collection and blood testing practices.

Regular, unpaid voluntary donors are the mainstay of a safe and sustainable blood supply because they are less likely to lie about their health status. Evidence indicates that they are also more likely to keep themselves healthy. South Africa, for instance, has an HIV prevalence of 23.3 % in the adult population but only 0.03% among its regular blood donors.

The WHO survey shows that out of the 124 countries that provided data to WHO, 56 saw an increase in unpaid voluntary donation. The remaining 68 have either made no progress or have seen a decline in the number of unpaid voluntary donors. Of the 124 countries, 49 have reached 100% unpaid voluntary blood donation. Out of those 49, only 17 are developing countries.

The number of donations per 1000 population is about 15 times greater in high-income than in low-income countries. This is concerning because developing countries have an even greater need for sustained supplies of safe blood since many conditions requiring blood transfusions - such as severe malaria-related anaemia in children or serious pregnancy complications - are still claiming over one million lives every year. About 25% of deaths caused by severe bleeding during delivery could be prevented through access to safe blood.

In the area of blood testing, 56 out of 124 countries did not screen all of their donated blood for HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis. Reasons given for this include scarcity or unaffordability of test kits, lack of infrastructure and shortage of trained staff.

On the other hand, several countries have risen to the challenge. Of the countries surveyed, St. Lucia made the biggest jump forward, going from 24.39% of collected blood coming from unpaid volunteers in 2002 to 83.05% in 2004. Malaysia went from 50% in 2002 to 99% in 2004 and India from 45% to 52.42%.

According to government responses to the WHO questionnaire, the reason for progress is tied to stronger AIDS prevention programmes.

In China, government figures show that all donated blood in 2005 was tested for the four infections. In the area of blood donation, China has seen a rise of unpaid voluntary donors from 22% in 1998 to 94.5% in 2005. China’s progress is due particularly to its reduction of commercial blood and plasma, thus minimizing the practice of unregulated blood collection and provision throughout the country while also strengthening HIV prevention.

The World Health Organization introduced the 100% unpaid, voluntary blood donation policy in 1997. World Blood Donor Day, an annual event on June 14, is a day to help governments reach that target by creating awareness of the need for sustainable supplies of safe blood. It is also a day to thank existing blood donors for the remarkable gift they make to those whose lives they have improved or saved, and to encourage new donors to commit.

Commitment is the theme of this year's World Blood Donor Day; from regular and potential donors, but also from governments and the global community to maintain blood safety high on the agenda as a vital factor in treatment and disease prevention.

The global celebration of World Blood Donor Day 2006 on June 14 will take place in Bangkok, Thailand. It will be hosted by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Training in Blood Transfusion Medicine and the Thai Red Cross Society National Blood Centre. Over 100 other countries will join in the celebrations.

World Blood Donor Day was established at the 58th World Health Assembly in May 2005 by WHO's 192 Member States, to urge all countries in the world to thank blood donors, promote voluntary, unpaid blood donations and ensure safe supplies of blood for all.

For further information please contact:

Daniela Bagozzi
Communications Officer, WHO
Telephone: +41 22 791 4544
Mobile: +41 79 475 5490
Email:bagozzid@who.int

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