13 June 2014, Colombo: Globally, 800 mothers die every day during pregnancy, childbirth or in the postpartum period – 99% of them in the developing world. Severe bleeding during delivery or after childbirth is the commonest cause of maternal mortality and contributes to around 31% of maternal deaths in Asia. World Blood Donor Day will focus on providing safe blood for saving mothers with Sri Lanka as the host for the global event on 14 June 2014.

Blood transfusion has been identified as one of the key life-saving interventions for the management of pregnancy-related complications. As per 2013 global data, the maternal mortality ratio per 100 000 live births varies from 26 to 270 in countries of WHO’s South-East Asia Region. In Sri Lanka it is just 29 per 100 000 live births reflecting high-quality maternal health services island wide.

Around 15.6 million units blood donations are collected in WHO’s South-East Asia Region every year. The Region needs 18 million units donations per year. “Sri Lankans donate around 380 800 units of blood every year, and 100% of donated blood comes from voluntary, non-remunerated donors. Sri Lanka has demonstrated strong political will and effective community mobilization, which has resulted in comprehensive nationally coordinated blood transfusion services.” says Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

However, not all patients requiring transfusion have timely access to safe blood and blood products in the Region. “Countries need to ensure that supplies of blood and blood products are sufficient and free from infections such as HIV, hepatitis, syphilis and malaria. We need more people to donate blood voluntarily, for free, and to ensure the safety of blood during transfusion,” urges Dr Khetrapal Singh.

An adequate and reliable supply of safe blood can only be assured through a stable base of regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donors. They are the safest group of donors as generally the prevalence of bloodborne infections is lowest among them. WHO urges Member States to develop national blood transfusion services based on voluntary, unpaid blood donations to achieve the goal of self-sufficiency in safe blood and blood products. Voluntary donations are increasing and account for almost 82% of total blood donations in the Region. Other than Sri Lanka, only Thailand receive 100% of their blood by voluntary donations.

In countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region, blood transfusions are often used for management of pregnancy-related complications, severe anaemia in children and injuries due to accidents and trauma, in addition to surgery/medicine cases. According to Dr Khetrapal Singh, “Often transfusions are prescribed when simple and safe alternative treatments might be equally effective. As a result such a transfusion may not be necessary. An unnecessary transfusion exposes patients to the risk of infections such as HIV and hepatitis and adverse transfusion reactions.”

WHO is urging countries, to take concrete steps to ensure that health facilities improve access to safe blood and blood products from volunteer donors for women giving birth. There is need to involve, educate, and empower communities to regularly and voluntarily donate blood to meet the national need. This gift of life is the most precious gift one can give to a fellow citizen.

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WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises the following 11 Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

For more information, please visit our website: http://www.searo.who.int/entity/bloodsafety/en/

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