The World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region today said it continued to accelerate action to ensure that everyone, everywhere had timely access to sufficient and secure blood and blood products, and safe transfusion services.

Blood transfusions are required to treat and manage a range of health conditions that people from all countries, of all income groups experience, from thalassemia and haemophilia to complications during pregnancy and childbirth, severe trauma, and surgical procedures. "Yet, globally, 42 per cent of blood is collected in high-income countries, which are home to just 16 per cent of the world's population. In lower-middle-income countries, the median blood donation rate is 6.8 per 1,000 people. In low-income countries, it is five. The region requires at least 2 million more units of blood every year, which must be mobilised from voluntary, non-remunerated donors,"

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for South- East Asia said in a press release issued today on the occasion of the World Blood Donor Day.

WHO's South-East Asia region comprises 11 countries, including Nepal. According to Dr Kshetrapal Singh, the region has in recent years made steady and sustained progress. All countries in the region have developed national blood policies, which they continue to implement. Based on data from the Global Database for Blood Safety, 100 per cent of all blood donated in the region is screened for transfusion transmitted infections.

Between 2013 and 2018 the region increased blood donations by 2.37 million units – the third highest increase globally. "Amid the ongoing COVID-19 response, WHO will continue to support countries in the region to maintain and strengthen blood donation and blood transfusion services," she said. "We can all contribute.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, regular blood donors have continued to give, despite limited mobility and other challenges.

Their extraordinary effort has increased health system resilience and must be celebrated for what it is – a lifesaving gift, and an expression of human solidarity," she added.

According to Kathmandu-based Central Blood Transfusion Service of Nepal Red Cross Society, only 0.5 per cent of the total population in Nepal donates blood. Of the total blood donors, women constitute only 10 per cent. Nepal Red Cross Society has been providing blood transfusion service through 22 district-level blood banks, 42 emergency units and 38 hospital units across the country. It largely depends on volunteer blood donors for blood and blood components.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 14, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.