Spread awareness on donating blood

The chronic shortage in the availability of blood for transfusion in the country is worrying. According to the World Health Organisation, every country needs at least a one per cent reserve of blood. This means that India, with a population of 1.2 billion people needs 12 million units of blood annually. However, it is able to collect only 9 million units per year – a 25 per cent shortfall. The severity of shortage varies across the country. Karnataka, for instance, requires 6 lakh units of blood annually but falls short of this requirement by 20 per cent. While the situation in the state is better than the national average, it is still serious and requires attention and action. The situation in Bihar is alarming; voluntary donation meets just 10 per cent of the state’s requirement for blood. This means that many of those suffering from thalassaemia, undergoing surgery, victims of accidents, etc have to do without the blood transfusions they need, putting their lives at peril. Voluntary blood donation in India is very limited. Just eight people per 1,000 donate blood in a year unlike in developed countries where 50 per 1,000 people do so.

A shortage in voluntary blood donation encourages an illegal trade in blood. In 1999, the Supreme Court banned the selling of blood. This was aimed at improving the quality of blood being donated. However, the buying and selling of blood continues. This is of concern, as ‘professional’ blood donors sell blood that is often infected and end up spreading diseases. What is more, it even encourages traders in this underground business to force people to donate blood for a pittance.

Lack of awareness about blood donation is the main reason for the shortage of blood in India. People fear they will become weak or contract disease by donating blood. Caste considerations also play an important role; people of higher castes do not want their blood to be used by lower castes. The government and NGOs must spread awareness about blood donation. Voluntary donations will increase if people realise that donating blood is good for the human system and health. Studies also indicate that available blood is not being used judiciously. Large amounts of blood are being wasted. For instance, not all dengue cases need blood transfusion. It is only when platelet levels fall below 20,000 that blood transfusion is needed. However, doctors are prescribing transfusion at platelet levels of even 40,000. A comprehensive strategy is needed that not only encourages voluntary blood donation but also ensures its judicious use.

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