JIS News

On Sunday, June 14, Jamaica will join the rest of the world in observing World Blood Donor Day, under the theme: ‘Achieving 100% Non-remunerated Blood Donation of Blood and Blood Components’.
Health Systems and Services Advisor of the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Jamaica, Dr. Alejandro Gherardi, informed JIS News that an estimated 50,000 units of blood is needed to cover the annual demand of blood in Jamaica. However, he noted that in the past years, the country’s annual collection has averaged 22,000 to 25,000 units.
Expressing his support for the 2009 theme, Dr. Gherardi said that many countries remain dependent on donations by the families or friends of patients who require blood and, in some countries, blood donors still receive payment. He pointed out that world blood transfusion data shows that voluntary unpaid donors are the foundation of a safe blood supply, as they are least likely to transmit potentially life-threatening infections, such as HIV and hepatitis viruses to their blood recipients.
The National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) is the Department of the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for the provision of safe blood and blood products to persons in need. Communications Officer of the NBTS, Sandra Brown-Thomas, told JIS News that the 2009 theme is quite pertinent, as achieving the set national target has proven quite a challenge.
“Jamaica has been experiencing a consistent shortage of blood for many years and we are still some distance away from achieving 100 per cent voluntary blood donation,” she said. The 2007/2008 annual report of the NBTS showed that while 30,000 units were the target for blood collection in 2008, only 26,300 units were collected and only 30 per cent came from voluntary donors.
Mrs. Brown-Thomas explained that Jamaicans have a strong tradition of being replacement donors, and are more likely to give blood when a relative or friend is in need. Presently, she noted, the ratio of replacement donors to voluntary donors is 7:3 and signals the need for Jamaicans to become more aware of the importance of blood donation in saving people’s lives.
“While some persons may give money and time, it is a much harder sell to tell someone to give of their body – to give blood. It is much harder to get that message home. We are however, grateful to the 30 per cent who have been receptive of the message,” she informed, adding that, “World Blood Donor Day provides that opportunity to pay tribute to voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors, particularly those who donate on a regular basis.”
The National Blood Transfusion Service’s World Blood Donor Day activities begin on June 14 with a Church Service and Blood Drive at the Bethel Baptist Church, 6 Hope Road, Kingston 10, at 7:00 a.m. RJR 94 FM will broadcast the service at 11:00 a.m. The blood drive will last from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The drive will continue at McGregor Square, 1 Beechwood Avenue on June 16, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m; Wednesday, June 17, at the Kingston Jaycees, 10 Altamont Crescent, New Kingston, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and at 20 Hillcrest Avenue, Kingston 6, on June 23, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Members of the public are invited to support the entire drive.
World Blood Donor Day, celebrated annually on June 14, was established by the World Health Assembly in May 2005, to strengthen blood donation processes and recognise voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors. It has the consistent support of all major stakeholders in blood transfusion medicine and blood transfusion services, including the World Health Organisation, International Society of Blood Transfusion, International Federation of Blood Donor Organisations and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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