India faces the largest shortage of blood in the world. While the country needs around 26.4 million units of blood per annum, the supply comes to just about 13.5 million units. Much of this shortfall of nearly 13 million units of blood can be attributed to the lack of an active Voluntary, Non-Renumerated Blood Donation (VNRBD) culture in the country as well as an inefficient blood collection system. The COVID-19 related lockdowns served to further aggravated blood shortages across the country.
The consequences of a lack of safe, timely and accessible blood supply are tangible and significant. Consider postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) as an example. It refers to deaths arising out of excessive bleeding after childbirth and it accounts for almost 30% of all maternal deaths in India.
The timely replacement of blood and blood products is critical in managing PPH and saving maternal lives. This and multiple such deaths can be avoided, and lives saved if we foster a culture of VNRBD in the country and take steps towards mainstreaming the same.
The organization that I've been a part of for more than 3 decades now, Terumo Penpol Private Limited (TPPL) started promoting voluntary blood donation since its inception. We've consistently promoted voluntary blood donations since 1999 and we were, in fact, instrumental in publicizing the World Blood Donor Day in India as well.
Terumo also took the lead in helping to establish the first Club 25 in India in 2007, the concept wherein students take a pledge to donate blood 25 times between the age of 18 and 25. Over the course of the last three decades, I had the fortune of positively impacting thousands of lives by means of a timely arrangement of blood for the needy in the communities we serve.
One of the key missing elements, in my view, in getting a far larger number of people aware as well as enthused about the sheer vitality of voluntary donation of blood has to do with the lack of knowledge about the issue and its ramifications.
There exist several misconceptions about the physiological effects of donating blood in the country and a focused, sustained and attractive Information Education Communication (IEC) campaign would serve to be incredibly helpful in bringing about some of these changes in attitudes.
What is equally important to remember is the fact that the shortage of blood in India is humongous and growing. Hence, piecemeal moves won't do, as what's needed are holistic approaches towards tackling the problem.
For example, the Central and State governments could continuously create awareness about voluntary blood donations and apheresis donations and may organize massive scientific awareness campaigns. Similarly, we could organise more blood camps in localities closer to people's homes to ensure high levels of motivation as well as ease for donating blood.
On the other hand, given the sheer utility of blood components and their efficacy vis a vis whole blood itself, the establishment of apheresis donor registries is a must. We should most certainly look beyond just whole blood VBD and expand our horizons to apheresis donors as well.
Overall, India's acute shortage of blood results in countless lives being lost which could otherwise have been saved. Especially given the challenges brought forth by the pandemic on our health sector, it is imperative that we take the steps necessary to solve India's blood system challenges and ensure the timely availability of safe blood for all Indians. I believe that when we work together, individuals, companies, and government we can be successful.