The blood transfusion safety document from the World Health Organization (19 September 2008) stated:
Many patients do not have access to blood when they need it. Of the
estimated 80 million units of blood donated annually worldwide, only 38%
are collected in the developing world where 82% of the world’s population
live. The shortfall has a particular impact on women with complications of
pregnancy, trauma victims and children with severe life-threatening
anaemia. Up to 150 000 pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided each
year through access to safe blood.
Even where sufficient blood is available, many people are exposed to
avoidable, life-threatening risks through the transfusion of unsafe blood.
The risk of acquiring HIV through the transfusion of infected blood is virtually
100%. Blood is also an effective means of transmitting hepatitis B,
hepatitis C, syphilis, malaria and Chagas disease. About 5% of HIV infections
are transmitted by unsafe transfusion as a result of the collection of blood
from unsafe donors, irregular or inadequate supplies of materials to test
blood for infections, poor laboratory testing procedures, inadequately trained
staff, absence of quality systems or unnecessary transfusions.
While blood transfusion can be life-saving, many transfusions are given
unnecessarily when the availability and use of simpler, less expensive
treatments would provide equal or greater benefit. Not only does this expose
patients needlessly to the risk of potentially fatal transfusion reactions,
it also widens the gap between supply and demand and contributes
to shortages of blood and blood products for patients who really need
THE COSTS OF UNSAFE BLOOD
Access to safe blood and blood products cannot be achieved without cost.
However, an unsafe or inadequate blood supply is even more costly – in both
human and economic terms.
Morbidity and mortality resulting from the non-availability of blood or the
transfusion of infected blood have a direct impact on individuals and their
families. The transfusion of infected blood also contributes to an everwidening
pool of infection in the general population with far-reaching
consequences for society as a whole. Increased requirements for medical
and social care, the loss of productive labour and higher levels of dependency
place heavy burdens on overstretched health and social services and on
A challenge for developing countries and their people – the WHO report gives suggestion on creating a safe blood service. It may be something we take for granted here, but do consider giving blood.
It is the gift of life.