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World Blood Donor Day: South Africa blood bank is stable, but more donors are still needed.

Written by Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Despite the challenges they have encountered when it comes to blood collection, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South African National Blood Service (SANBS) said, on World Blood Donor Day, that the country now has a stable stock of blood in their banks, but more willing blood donors are still needed.

Ahead of World Blood Donor Day on June 14, speaking to Health-e News, SANBS Communication Officer, Khensani Mahlangu said that the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a stumbling block when it comes to the collection of blood as during each wave, they always struggle to collect enough units of blood, due to restrictions.

“With each wave of the pandemic, we struggle to collect sufficient units owing to the decrease in movement of people. But we always manage to bounce back owing to our dedicated, loyal donors,” said Mahlangu.

The 14th of June each year, is regarded as the World Blood Donor Day, which aims to raise global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion and of the critical voluntary, unpaid blood donors make to national health systems. This year, the day is being commemorated under the theme ‘Give blood and keep the world beating’.

COVID-19 setbacks

Despite the COVID-19 setbacks, Mahlangu told Health-e News that at current, SANBS, has a stable blood bank but more donors are still needed as they continue to lose willing and loyal donors each year due to illnesses and age limit.

“We have 4.5 days’ blood stock which is stable. We do, however, endeavor to always maintain blood stocks above five days. We encourage blood recipients to share their stories with fellow South Africans to show them just how much of a difference their regular donations are making to the everyday lives of people,” said Mahlangu.

“I unfortunately we do not have stats, but it is a reality that each year, we lose a significant number of donors due to their advanced age-donors above the age of 75 and some donors drop off our donor panel as they develop illnesses that exclude them from donating. This makes donor recruitment more important around the age group 16-35 as their lifelong commitment to donating is important for stabilizing our blood stocks. Also, the younger individuals can stay on our panel for longer,” she said.

According to SANBS, less than 1% of South Africans are active blood donors and a unit of blood only lasts 42 days after donation, and for this reason, it is important for blood donors to donate regularly.

Register as blood donors on World Blood Donor Day

Mahlangu further encouraged South Africans who are yet to register themselves as blood donors to consider doing so soon.

“Your blood donation can literally be the difference between life and death for someone. Give someone the opportunity to share another day with their families and to make more memories by donating just one pint of blood every 56 days, “she said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), to ensure that everyone who needs safe blood has access to it, all countries need voluntary, unpaid donors who give blood regularly.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite limited mobility and other challenges, blood donors in many countries have continued to donate blood and plasma to patients who need transfusion. This extraordinary effort during a time of unprecedented crisis highlights the crucial role of well-organized, committed voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors in ensuring a safe and sufficient blood supply during normal and emergency times,” said WHO in media statement, announcing World Blood Donor Day 2021.

People of age between 16 to 65 who weigh more than 50 kilograms and lead a healthy lifestyle are eligible to register as blood donors and each unit of donated blood is first tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Syphilis before is given to patients who need blood transfusion. – Health-e News

About the author

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho is citizen journalist who is based in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. He joined OurHealth in 2015 and his interests lie in investigative journalism and reporting the untold stories of disadvantaged rural communities. Ndivhuwo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies from the University of Venda and he is currently a registered student with UNISA.