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This article was originally submitted by Haris Abbasi
Youngsters are at a ten-year low of donating blood. And that made me ponder – I’m a young individual and I have to confess I’ve never donated blood.
But why is that so? I’m not too sure honestly, it’s just one of those tasks I’ve always planned to do but have never got around to. As per the statistics, only 14% of regular donors are under 30, so I am not alone. I thought I would try and find out the reasons.
Lack of time, fear of needles and lack of information and understanding of what is involved are all given as explanations for young people not donating.
Most people who know about blood donation, but because of misinformation, who tend to be afraid of it; or who have never donated blood due to lack of knowledge of upon the subject; these people are not at fault.
Let’s take a look at why blood donation is so important for society.
Why should I donate blood?
Every other day, people lose blood in accidents and injuries and urgently require fresh blood to reimburse for the dangerous loss that has been caused. The main issue is that the human body is capable of producing blood on its own only to a certain limit, so the outside sources are needed to help the organism to recuperate.
According to the numbers, one individual amongst seven hospitalized patients requires blood. Blood is especially imperative for treating cancer and injuries and supporting the body during the surgical procedure.
Blood cannot be manufactured artificially in the clinical setting, hence there is a high demand for eligible donors willing to donate their blood regularly.
Women with complications in pregnancy, young patients with severe anaemia, cancer patients, people undergoing serious surgeries and also people with severe traumas due to traffic accidents or natural calamities, everyone is in dire need of blood.
Conflicting to the communal misapprehension, blood donation is a rewarding and even beneficial process for donors. While you donate blood you get something in return in two ways – you get a little prestige for being a blood donor, and you are able to receive blood when you yourself are a victim to an accident, have an operation or are in need of it.
This experience inculcates more consciousness and empathy within the donors and makes them feel contented upon their contribution to society. This certainly affects their emotional well-being and self-esteem.
So what do the numbers reflect?
Over 90% of total blood transfused in Pakistan is given by the friends and relatives of patients. Approximately 10-20% of blood supply is still donated by qualified donors. Blood transfusion facilities in Pakistan are mostly hospital-based.
A Survey of 170 blood banks in Karachi exhibited that the quality of kits used for blood screening was often impacted by frequent power cuts and they were not stored at the desired temperatures.
It has been estimated that a minimum of 10 blood donations per 1,000 population shows blood is available in a country for transfusion and if 1% of the country’s population donates blood, it would be adequate for its needs. However, blood donation rate is only 28 out of 10,000 people donate blood, i.e. 0.28%.
Moreover, there’s no proper infrastructure and storage for emergency situations. Culture of lack of donating causes shortages during emergencies.
Out of the 150 public and 450 private blood banks in the country, most of these are unregistered and unregulated due to which business of poor and unscreened blood has expected a worrying proportion.
Am I eligible to donate?
Any individual between the age of 17 and 65 years and weighing 50 kgs or more can donate blood at least three times a year. However, the donor should not be a victim of a serious disease like hepatitis B, C and HIV/AIDS. An average adult has 10 units of blood in the body. For a whole blood donation, only one pint is collected.
Blood can be stored up to 35 days.
Are there any challenges?
In Pakistan, there are misconceptions and lack of awareness. Mothers prohibit their children from donating blood even if they are young, healthy, and meet the eligibility criteria. They consider donating blood will weaken them.
Also for safe blood transfusion, we lack resources at the government level, to monitor the system properly. Medical professionals also lack competency. The donated blood is not even utilized to the full capacity. Hence, gaps remain in the whole mechanism.
Limited options exist for smaller cities and rural areas. A majority of hospitals in tehsil and district headquarters do not have blood banks. The patients’ families acquire blood from blood banks outside of these areas, where temperatures are not even maintained while transporting blood.
Pakistan has an additional liability because of an extraordinary number of thalassemia patients.
Firms bringing about a change!
All over the world, 14 June is celebrated as World Blood Donor Day. Since the formation of SBTP (Safe Blood Transfusion Programme) in 2010, the Programme in coordination with the German and other partners has been able to make a difference.
The new infrastructure development work of the Phase I was completed in 2016 in which 10 modern RBCs were established and 60 existing HBBs were elevated. The project had been termed as a “matchless experience”.
The most momentous aspect of these developments is that the ‘Safe Blood Transfusion Programme’ has materialized as the ‘national platform and voice of blood safety’ in Pakistan.
To draw the conclusion, I would like to say that blood donation is a fundamental process; that allows hospitals to deliver timely assistance. Without regular blood donors, it would be unmanageable to save the lives of thousands of hospitalized people requiring blood.
In my opinion, healthcare providers need to coach the community; about the significance of blood donation, and enlighten them that it is a fulfilling experience; that forms invisible bonds among people leading to incredible social awareness and responsibility.
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