June 14 is observed annually as World Blood Donor Day, a day in which we recognize the efforts of those voluntary donors who have helped to save the lives of millions across the world, with the gift of blood. On World Blood Donor Day, we also seek to heighten awareness of the need for safe blood transfusion and to highlight the importance of blood donation.
The 2009 theme, “Achieving 100% Non-remunerated Donation of Blood and Blood Components” is quite pertinent, in light of the challenges faced over the years by the National Blood Transfusion Service, known to most of us as the Blood Bank, in providing the country with blood and blood products of the highest quality. The international standard proposed by the WHO and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is for the annual blood collection of a country to equate to 5% of the population. For Jamaica, this amounts to approximately 130,000 units of blood per year.
Since its establishment in December 1948, the Blood Bank has been faced with the challenge of a consistent shortage of Blood. Annual collections average 25,000 pints. This is below the targeted amount of 50,000-80,000. The collections at most of our 10 centres across the island are far below the usage in those regions. This inevitably means that medical and surgical care could be affected. In 2007 alone, preliminary figures indicate that over 770 thousand trauma patients were seen at the island’s health facilities. This further amplifies the importance of those persons who have consistently helped to shore up our blood supply.
Only 30% of the blood collected each year is through voluntary donation. This dependence on replacement donors sometimes places a country’s blood supply in jeopardy, as there are some persons who, anxious to help a distressed family member or friend, conceal important information about their health. This can put the blood supply in jeopardy. Achieving 100% voluntary donation may seem like quite an ambitious target, but we ought to strive to achieve as close a figure to this as we possibly can. Total non-remunerated blood donation increases the safety of the nation’s blood supply. Regular donors are said to be the safest blood donors and they are also the foundation of sustainable national blood supplies.
The Ministry of Health is therefore appealing to existing and potential blood donors to know your health status and supply accurate information to health officials when you go to give blood. We make this appeal as we aim to uphold Jamaica’s distinguished reputation of consistently providing safe blood, as highlighted in a PAHO report in 2002. Since the National Blood Transfusion Service was first established on North Street on December 6th 1948, high standards of donor recruitment and retention have ensured a blood transfusion safety record comparable to the highest international standards.
We applaud the efforts of the NBTS, who through various Public Education efforts such as their School’s Blood Drives and Donor recruitment campaigns, has succeeded in increasing the cadre of voluntary blood donors. They deserve high commendations for their consistently high safety record.
One of the progress indicators in the Regional Plan of Action 2006-2010 is for countries to develop national guidelines to facilitate better patient care and planning of the national bloods systems. Jamaica has already prepared our guideline so we are well on our way.
On this World Blood Donor Day, I call on every Jamaican who is in good health and able to give blood, to play their part in shoring up the country’s blood supply. Support this cause of giving the gift of life. Become a voluntary blood donor TODAY. The Country and your fellow citizens need your help. You can never tell- you may be the next person who will require urgent blood service.

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