As blood donation curve falls, life stops for many


Khalid Bin Majeed

The international community is today celebrating the World Blood Donor Day 2020 at a time when the new coronavirus disease COVID-19 has thrown the entire world a curve ball with its gory tentacles – anchored deep down in the earth – feeding on more and more victims and bleeding the state coffers. Never before in the last 100 years has the world had to deal with a disaster/calamity of such magnitude.

Scientists, geneticists, and microbiologists the world over are burning the midnight oil and racing against time in their efforts to find a cure to neutralize the pandemic for good. This smart RNA virus however has outsmarted and outwitted the scientists so far.

In addition to affecting and killing people and overburdening even the strongest economies, the novel coronavirus has seriously dented the global health system, with blood shortage threatening to kill more people, especially those suffering from leukemia, Thalassemia, hemophilia, sickle cell anemia or those undergoing critical surgeries.

Blood shortage has put the state health authorities on tenterhooks and governments across the world are urging their people – through coordinated campaigns in the print, electronic, and social media – to rise to the challenge and line up for blood donation.

In Pakistan too blood banks and centers are facing a serious shortage of blood, as donations have troughed significantly due to the low turnout of voluntary non-remunerated blood donors. Majority of donors fear that they might contract the virus if they ventured out of the safety of their home, or that they might catch it during the transfusion process. This situation has put the health professionals in a dilemma.

Like its competitors, the Regional Blood Donation Centre ([RBDC] of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has also been working overtime since the outbreak of the pandemic to cater to the needs of Thalassemia, Hemophilia, cancer, and dialysis patients.

Educational institutions and industrial units were the major source of blood collection for the Centre, and their closure since the outbreak of pandemic has impacted on blood donations. This situation has toughened the Center’s task to search for the potential donors.

Realizing the gravity of the situation, renowned humanitarian, philanthropist and showbiz celebrity Mr. Abrar Ul Haq soon after assuming the charge as Chairman PRCS in December last year made a fervent appeal to the nation – through the social, print, and electronic media – not to let the pandemic keep them from donating blood for the critically ill patients.

Mr. Haq also toured the provincial capitals and motivated people through the print, electronic, and social media to look up to their glorious tradition of making a beeline for blood donations whenever a natural or manmade disaster befell the country.

It was due to his sincere efforts and charisma that people started visiting the Regional Blood Donor Centre to donate blood. However, the frequency of the donors needs to be increased to ensure an uninterrupted supply of blood for the critically ill patients.

In addition to making a clarion call to the nation, PRCS also roped in the parliamentarians from different political parties in the nationwide blood campaign. With the assistance and cooperation of Deputy Speaker National Assembly Qasim Suri, the RBDC arranged a blood donation camp at the Parliament House where parliamentarians from across the political divide not only donated blood, but also motivated the public to follow the suit.

Since the demand overstretched the supply, the PRCS Regional Blood Donor Centre team whipped up the blood donation campaign and set up camps at different locations in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The Centre arranged 11 camps in January, 9 camps in February, and five in March collecting a total of 1,197 units. The Centre also arranged 15 camps at different locations in the twin cities in April and collected 560 units, including 187 units from the walk-in donors.

The highest number of 171 units came from the Islamabad Police. Inspector General of Islamabad Police (IGP) Muhammad Amir Zulfiqar Khan took special interest in the PRCS blood collection campaign and directed his force to ensure their participation in this national cause and wholeheartedly donate blood for those needing it the most.

The PRCS volunteers are also working selflessly round the clock to ensure availability of blood for the patients and contributing in the blood campaign through their precious blood donations. Their passion and motivation is precious asset to PRCS.

In addition to these measures, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society also joined hands with the Uber Pakistan to facilitate the blood collections, under the partnership the Uber Pakistan gave 5,000 free promo codes to the PRCS, which are being used by the voluntary non-remunerated blood donors to visit to and from the Regional Blood Donor Centre for blood donation.

However, despite all these indefatigable efforts, the results do not match the expectations, as the fear of catching coronavirus still hounds the potential blood donors. This situation demands serious state intervention and a passionate appeal by Prime Minister Imran Khan, parliamentarians, celebrities and Ulema belonging to all schools of thought. Their combined efforts would definitely bring good results.

Safe blood is critical both for treatments and urgent interventions and its adequate and reliable supply is the need of the hour, which could only be ensured by a stable base of regular, voluntary non-remunerated donors. In order to increase blood donations, the government should launch a public awareness campaign in the print and electronic media to dispel fears among the donors about safety of the transfusion process by educating them on the standard safety protocols adopted by the blood banks and centers. Time is of the essence and the government should rise to the occasion the sooner the better.