Message of WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti
A blood service that gives patients access to safe blood and blood products in sufficient quantity is a key component of an effective health system providing patient centred healthcare and focusing on assuring equitable access with the aim of progressing to achieving Universal Health Coverage.
We celebrate World Blood Donor Day every year on 14 June to raise awareness of safe blood and blood products, such as plasma, and highlight the critical contribution of voluntary, unpaid blood donors to save lives.
It is a special opportunity to celebrate and thank voluntary blood donors worldwide for their gift of blood; the day focuses on achieving universal access to safe blood transfusion.
This year’s campaign slogan is “Give blood, give plasma, share life, share often.”
It underlines the role every person can play by regularly giving the valuable gift of blood to create a safe and sustainable supply of blood and blood products that can always be available to needy patients.
Over the years, Member States in the WHO African Region have made significant progress in establishing nationally coordinated blood transfusion services, policy frameworks, and national standards for collecting, testing, processing, storing and distributing blood and blood products.
This notable progress notwithstanding, only eight countries have blood services that are designed to always ensure the highest levels of quality and safety for patients and donors. Reliance on non-renumerated blood donors is still high, with 16 countries accounting for over 80% of voluntary non-remunerated blood donation.
Blood collection remains low at an average donation rate of 5.9 units per 1000 people compared to 33.1 donations per 1000 people in high-income countries. Of concern is the financial barrier to accessing safe blood. In the WHO Africa Region, patients pay, on average, US$ 42 out of pocket to access safe blood.
Results from a survey conducted in 2022 revealed that sixteen (16) countries out of thirty-nine (39) that took part in the survey, had more than 80% of voluntary non-remunerated blood donation (VNRBD), and 19 countries had less than 50% of voluntary non-remunerated blood donation. Thirty (30) countries reported that plasma-derived medicinal products were listed on their essential medicines list. These statistics show that there is a need for more work to be done in the African Region to improve access to safe blood and blood products.
We must address persistent challenges to ensure sustainable access to safe and quality-assured blood and blood products for needy patients. Through our collaborative efforts, we must raise adequate and sustainable funding and increase blood donation rates. We also need to build the capacity of countries to separate donated blood into its components such as red cell concentrates, platelet concentrates, fresh frozen plasma, and cryoprecipitate, and curb inappropriate clinical transfusion practices.
The WHO Regional Office for Africa is working with partners to leverage expertise and available resources in the region to ensure improved access to supplies of plasma-derived products through the fractionation of domestic plasma.
Thus, in collaboration with the International Coalition for safe plasma protein products in low- and middle-income countries, the WHO Regional Office organized a virtual congress in June 2022 to discuss issues of safe transfusion and blood supply, including donations to highlight these needs in LMICs. The webinar was hosted by the International Society for Blood Transfusion. The first pilot project, located at National Blood Transfusion Center in Dakar, Senegal, on pathogen-reduced cryoprecipitate, started in September 2022.
On this World Blood Donor Day, I celebrate and thank individuals who donate blood and encourage all of us to join efforts to ensure access to safe blood for all in need.
While doing so, let us remember the health of blood donors. The African Region would like to focus on donor health and the quality of donor care as critical factors in building donor commitment and a willingness to donate regularly.
I would like to emphasize the critical roles of regular voluntary unpaid blood and plasma donations in achieving universal access to safe blood products for all populations.
 WHO African Region status report on blood availability, safety, and quality (2022). https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/363421