The observation of National Voluntary Blood Donation Day in our country started on 1st October 1975, under the initiative of Indian Society of Blood Transfusion and Immunohaematology. Since then, the 1st October of each year is being observed throughout the country as the National Voluntary Blood Donation Day. As Secretary General of the Indian Red Cross Society, I wish to take this opportunity to thank all those who voluntarily donate blood and help save millions of lives.
Voluntary blood donation is undoubtedly, the highest form of humanitarian service as it is done without expectation of even knowing who it will help. There is a higher altruistic thought that motivates such action. One single blood donation actually helps many patients as blood is usually segregated into RBC’s, Platelets, WBC’s and Plasma and given accordingly for their requirement.
The need for blood is constantly increasing the world over. Apart from diseases like dengue, millions lose their lives to natural and man-made disasters. The number of people dying in road accidents is also growing. Although over 88 million units of blood are collected the world over it is still not sufficient for the 6,910 million world population which requires 150 million units annually. In some developed countries the number of voluntary blood donors is very high, like Switzerland where number of voluntary blood donors per 1,000 population figures is 113 and in Japan, it is 70 but in India it is still very low, 8 for every 1,000 population.
Against an annual demand of 12 million units, India is able to collect only 9 million units of which 70% is from voluntary blood donors while the remaining 30% is from family/replacement donors. The Indian Red Cross Society has 166 blood banks all over the country, where the voluntary blood donation is 90%. At the Model blood bank in National HQ of the IRCS, more than 90% of donations are by voluntary blood donors. However, we still have a long way to go as the need today is also for safe blood.
Non remunerated Voluntary Blood Donors are considered as the safest source of blood as they have low prevalence of TTIs (Transfusion Transmissible Infections) like HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Malaria and Syphilis.
The popular misconception that a person becomes weak by donating blood is wrong. On the contrary, there are several benefits of blood donation. Donating blood improves overall cardiovascular health as blood donated regularly helps males in particular to reduce the amount of iron in the blood which can reduce the chance of heart attacks. Additionally, it can also lower the risk of severe cardiovascular events such as stroke. Blood donation enhances the production of new blood cells as new cells are produced by the marrow within 48 hours of donation, and all of the red blood cells the donor loses during donation are completely replaced within one to two months. Blood donation has also been seen to lower risk of cancer including liver, lung, colon, stomach and throat cancers.
Blood donation has other obvious benefits like receiving a free prior health screening plus mini blood test. Blood is also tested for some major diseases and the donor is immediately informed in strict confidentiality if any of these tests show positive results. A blood donor by his donation saves many lives and gives hope to many whose situation may otherwise be hopeless. Blood donors give such patients a second lease of life. By donating blood one impacts not only the patient whose life may depend on it, but also all those who depend on that patient. The entire community will benefit from the spirit of generosity.
I hope that the above will quell any doubts that one may have about donating blood. I would like to exhort all those who are fit and between the ages of 18 and 65 years to come forward as voluntary blood donors and help save many more lives.