Under the title “One Arab Blood”, Egypt’s health ministry celebrated the 12th anniversary of World Blood Donation Day in the Arab League headquarters on Sunday.
The event brought together governmental and non-governmental workers in the field of blood donation in Egypt to review the status and strategies for blood donation in Egypt. The event hosted national blood bank workers, charities, corporate employees in the field of social responsibility, and other advocates of the cause.
The Arab Institution for Blood Transmission Services, currently led by Egypt, was launched by the ministerial Arab health council 36 years ago. The Sunday meeting was part of the council members’ annual meeting.
“Our dilemmas are increasing everyday in the Arab countries, from wars and terrorism, many lives are lost every day. Increasing awareness on blood donation should be our main concern now,” Ahmed Bin Heli, deputy secretary general of Arab League told Daily News Egypt during the conference.
“The role of NGOs is crucial in the spread of blood donation awareness. They should work on expanding the reach of their campaigns by following international safety procedures in blood transmission, engaging celebrities and utilising international events like WBDD,” he added.
The blood donation day focuses worldwide on recognising blood donors and encouraging more people to become donors and save lives, in addition to ensuring safety measures in blood transmission. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) only 62 countries rely on voluntary and free national blood supplies, while in 40 other countries patietns still rely on family members or those who get paid in return of their donation.
Adel Al-Adawi, Egypt’s health minister, said: “Only 1% of the total population in Egypt are regular donors, while Egypt needs at least 3% of the total population to become regular donors to cover the minimal demand of blood.”
He also announced that the ministry plans to launch a common Arab blood bank as one of its strategies to counter lack of blood bags, and increase awareness on donation through different medical centres across Egypt.
Despite the multiple benefits that blood donation offers by saving up to three lives, and by refreshing the donors blood cells, the blood donation gap in Egypt remains, amid fears of infections during transmission, and the existence of a black market.
Engy Mahmoud, universities supervisor at the Triple Effect, told Daily News Egypt: “Blood donation awareness for many Egyptians is just like a blank page, even worse this page is sometimes filled by bad experiences.”
“Many people opt not to donate blood because of some past bad experiences of not finding blood for their families, some others fear the pain of the process itself or the infection afterwards, but most of those fears are just illusions if procedures are followed carefully,” she added.
The Triple Effect is a non-governmental awareness campaign on blood donation launched by the Takatof organisation to increase awareness among 30 universities, as well as corporations.
According to Mahmoud, awareness is more likely to reach decentralised locations, , away from the major cities. “In Cairo and Alexandria and other busy locations, people are less inclined to listen to other people on the street talking about a cause and trying to get their attention,” she said. “Our main goal is awareness, not collecting blood bags. The number of blood bags for us is only an awareness indicator.”
During the first three days of the 25 January Revolution, a total of 3,425 units were collected, according to a study by Research Gate. The positive rate of hepatitis C (HCV) markers in the collected units was only 1.6%.
An earlier study on blood transmission safety in Egypt stated that the prevalence of positive infectious markers among replacement donors is 8%, while among volunteer donors is 4.5% over six years of the study, from 2006-2012, with the study including 308,762 donors. The diseases included syphilis, HIV and HCV.