Blood donation is the most valuable gift one can make to another human being. But, when the world faces a massive crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical to consider blood donation.
The pandemic had hampered blood donation drives, resulting in dwindling stocks of blood and its components. In the aftermath of the ongoing crisis, blood banks and transfusion services struggle to meet demand. But as the COVID threat is emerging low, the blood donation drive is spiking.
According to Dr. Meenu Bajpai, professor Department of Transfusion Medicine at ILBS, "With the Omicron variant, we are having a shorter wave. When the cases were rising, elective surgeries and other operations were postponed, due to which the demand for blood had also decreased significantly. However, thalassemia-affected and those who need blood transfusion regularly suffered," as reported by The New Indian Express.
With an entire focus on preventing COVID-19, doctors fear that neglect in other areas may lead to more significant health risks. Hospitals these days are executing fewer surgeries related to other illnesses. With about 1.5 million cancer cases prevailing in the country, doctors say that the requirement, despite reduced demand, is still high.
Blood Shortage And Requirement In India
Access to safe blood and blood donation requirements remains a significant concern in India. We face a critical shortage of safe blood, an essential life-saving pillar of any healthcare system.
As per the WHO, blood donation by 1% of the population is generally the bare minimum for meeting a nation's most basic blood needs. According to 2016-17 data, India fell short of the WHO standard by 1.9 million units (or 15%).
There is almost no connectivity and communication between blood banks in India because there is no organised nationwide blood transfusion service. As a result, there is weak demand and supply management regarding availability and blood quality.
How To Overcome The Shortage?
While most metropolitan areas are nearly self-sufficient in blood, the tier II and rural regions face life-threatening shortages. As a result, India urgently needs to establish a complete blood transfusion service that can serve as a network connecting blood-collection centres across areas, allowing them to mitigate demand-supply discrepancies and ensure the economic efficiency and viability of blood banks.
As a result, India must establish a pool of healthy, willing blood donors through an effective voluntary blood donor programme. One of the most significant impediments to achieving this goal is widespread misinformation and ignorance about voluntary blood donation's impact, significance, and safety. Even the most educated people in India believe that blood donation is an emergency service and that they should only donate blood when asked. Evidence worldwide indicates that establishing an effective voluntary blood donor programme necessitates mobilisation to raise public awareness at grassroots, state, and national levels.
These two critical interventions to address the issue of safe and adequate blood supply could save the lives of many pregnant women across India, particularly in rural areas. The WHO states that several countries, including Cambodia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Zambia, and Ethiopia, have successfully reduced maternal mortality by improving access to safe blood.
Efforts To Be Taken By Ministry Of Health
Given this, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the State Health Departments must work together with relevant stakeholders to take concrete steps to improve access to safe blood as part of a broad approach to reducing maternal mortality in India.
This will also provide opportunities to align maternal health programmes with blood transfusion services, which will improve MMR indicators in line with India's SDG targets and support India's vision of expanding universal health coverage.
History Of Blood Crisis In India
Furthermore, strict requirements for the infrastructure and qualified medical personnel who must operate the blood tank have been specified. According to a 1990 report, India's blood banking system has many flaws, including a lack of infrastructure, a decentralised nature, and a lack of adequate human, technological, and financial resources.
In light of this, the National Policy Framework on Blood Transfusion Services recommended several strategies for improving such services in the country. Furthermore, initiatives addressing the issue of the annual blood requirement shortfall.
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