Yemen marks World Blood Donor Day [Archives:2008/1164/Health]

June 16 2008

This past Saturday, Yemen marked World Blood Donor Day, a World Health Organization-sponsored event focusing on the role of voluntary unpaid blood donations in the fight to save lives across the globe.

“This annual event highlights the role blood donors play in saving lives and improving the health of millions. It creates awareness about the availability, safety and appropriate use of blood and blood products,” a WHO statement said about the event.

Voluntary blood donation in Yemen still is somewhat uncommon, as most patients needing blood get it from relatives who donate whenever the need arises, but the Ministry of Health is trying to change this.

“We've conducted a blood donation campaign on television for the past two days ago [since June 12] trying to make people aware that this is something healthy to do, as well as being good for them and for their blood circulation,” explains Dr. Ghrazi Al-Ismail, deputy minister of the Health Ministry's medical sector.

He adds, “It makes the blood clean, so we encourage them [volunteers] to do it.” The actual blood collection drive has been soliciting donors for nearly two weeks.

Al-Ismail notes that the majority of Yemen's blood donors are between the ages of 20 and 45 and are either college students or working professionals.

Many different types of Yemenis need blood transfusions for surgery or as treatment for illness. For example, sufferers of thalassemia, a chronic and hereditary disease, require blood transfusions every three weeks. Some estimates say that more than 4.5 percent of Yemen's total population suffers from thalassemia, also called “Mediterranean Anemia,” due to its prevalence in the region.

Blood donors in Sana'a can go to the Center for Blood Transfer Services, as it has the proper equipment to receive voluntary blood donations.

MTN mobile telephone company also encourages its employees to donate by setting up a blood donation station tent in front of its building. “Plenty of people came to donate, especially those who work for MTN,” Al-Ismail noted.

According to WHO, there has been a 22 percent increase in voluntary [unpaid] blood donors in developing and transitional countries throughout the world. Even though 80 percent of the world's population lives in developing countries, only 45 percent of all blood donations come from these places and developing countries like Yemen still have much work to do when it comes to mobilizing voluntary blood donors.

The theme of this year's World Blood Donor Day was “Giving Blood Regularly,” stressing the importance of a long-term commitment to unpaid voluntary blood donation to help build up every nation's blood reserves.

WHO warns that every nation, but particularly developing countries, should be on guard to avoid blood shortages and that blood screening should be stringent to ensure that donations are free of hazardous diseases. At the very least, it says blood must be screened for HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis.

“The safest blood is given by the safest blood donors. The prevalence of HIV, hepatitis viruses and other blood-borne infections is lowest among voluntary unpaid blood donors who give blood purely for altruistic reasons,” according to WHO's blood donation safety data.

“Worldwide, the highest infection rates are found among donors who give blood for money or for other forms of payment,” it continued, noting that an adequate supply of safe blood can be assured only through regular donation by voluntary unpaid blood donors.

This year, the international campaign centered in two countries, China and the United Arab Emirates, both of which are blood donation success stories, as each went from nearly no voluntary blood donations a decade ago to nearly 100 percent voluntary blood donations this year. In both countries, previous blood donations were made either in exchange for money or came from family members.

To donate blood, you must:

– Be between 18 and 60 years old

– Weigh more than 50 kilograms for men and more than 45 kilograms for women

– Be free of blood-borne diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and syphilis

– Not be pregnant or nursing at the time of donation

– Not be on antibiotics or various other medications and drugs

– Be healthy and free of illnesses such as cancer and malaria

Check with a doctor to find out if there are any other impediments to your donating blood.

(Information courtesy of