World Blood Donors Day 2022: Severe shortage of blood in India

Need to bust myths & increase awareness of benefits of blood donation, say doctors


June 14, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

World Blood Donors Day 2022: Severe shortage of blood in India

Even though India needs about 26.4 million units of blood per annum, the total supply is about half, 13.5 million units (Photo: Vetrivel. A & Raghul V/ Guru Nanak College)

Despite its large and mainly young population, India faces extreme shortage of blood in hospitals as many remain wary of donating blood, mainly on unfounded fears, even though many hospitals and civil society groups have been advocating it for years. Regular blood donation drives have also been held across the country, notably on occasions like the World Blood Donors Day that is marked on June 14 every year.

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The statistics are chilling enough. Over 12,000 persons die every day across India as they fail to receive blood. One in four maternal deaths in India is due to excess loss of blood and shortage of blood in hospitals to replenish the patient’s blood levels.

Though many countries, notably the developing ones, face a severe shortage of blood, the situation in India is particularly alarming. According to NGOs working in the domain, even though India needs about 26.4 million units of blood per annum, the total supply is about half, 13.5 million units. Much of this shortfall is due to the lack of active voluntary, unpaid blood donation culture in the country as well as an inefficient blood collection system. According to the Indian Red Cross Society, under 0.2 pc Indians donate blood voluntarily.

(Photo: Vetrivel. A & Raghul V/Guru Nanak College)

“If even 1 pc of Indians donate blood, then the country won’t be lacking whenever any patient is in need of blood,” Prem Gautam, a member of Maa Bharti Raktvahini, an NGO in Sonipat, Haryana, tells Media India Group.

In view a global shortage of blood, which leads to millions of deaths every year around the world, the World Health Organisation organised World Blood Donor Day for the first time in 2005 and has held it every year since to raise global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and also to thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their contribution saving millions of lives through their donation.

According to WHO, for every 1,000 people in any country, at least 10-20 donors are required to provide adequate supplies. As per government data, 34 per 1,000 eligible people must donate blood at least once in a year to fulfil the estimated clinical demand for blood in India.

Gautam says that his organisation also holds blood donation drives for the Indian Army, as it had in May last year when a total of 97 bags of blood were donated to the the Army Blood Bank. He adds that the need for blood rises in summer as few organisations hold donation at this time and hence his organisation is called upon to step up. Gautam says that in May 2022, his NGO held seven blood donation drives to meet the shortages being faced in hospitals as less blood is donated durign the summers. Gautam adds that while his NGO could do with more funds in order to hold such drives, money is not the only challenge, lack of awareness and prevalence of myths about blood donation is a bigger challenge.

“Funds have always been an issue whenever we have held such types of campaigns, but the other and bigger problem that we face sometimes when holding campaigns in villages is the few donors that come forward to donate blood because of the belief that their body would become weak. Yes, it is right that the situation is much better compared to the number of donors that organisations got in the past, however the issue still remains because of such beliefs,” says Gautam.

Kasha Blayu, secretary of Dha Memories Society, another NGO working in blood donation in New Delhi, recalls how the first time when he was leaving to donate blood, his parents tried to stop him believing it would make him sick. “There is a lack of awareness in many people, especially amongst the older generation who believe that donating blood will lead to deficiency of blood in the body, thereby discouraging others to do so. In reality, blood donation is actually healthy if you donate blood once in every three months as per medical guidelines,” Blayu tells Media India Group.

“Yes, it is indeed true. Donating blood is actually healthy and there is even a list of benefits that people get when donating blood,” Dr Manish Sharma, haematologist, oncologist and cancer Specialist at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre in New Delhi tells Media India Group.

At Media India Group’s request, Dr Sharma goes on to bust several myths about blood donation and also highlights the advantages that it brings to the donors. Dr Sharma says that several studies have found that those who donate blood regularly have a 33-88 pc lower risk of cardiovascular disease as compared to those who don’t donate. He adds that repeated blood donation reduces density of blood, thereby potentially lowering blood pressure and risk of plaque rupture.

A study by the University of California, San Diego says that with every 500ml of blood donated, a person can lose 250 mg of haemoglobin iron, thereby reducing oxidation stress and perhaps even lowering the risk of cancer. The study however says that though it is not a weight-loss therapy, every pint (473 ml) of blood donation leads to loss of about 650 calories. Dr Sharma dismisses the belief that blood donation leads to a better skin. “I don’t think there is any logic in the benefit of having good skin and any other such when donating blood found in the internet,” he says.



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