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Health News of Thursday, 12 June 2014

Source: GNA

Safe blood needed to save mothers – WHO

As part of activities marking World Blood Donor Day on June 14, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on countries to improve access to safe blood to save the lives of mothers.

According to WHO, almost 800 women die daily from causes related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

It said severe bleeding during pregnancy, delivery or after childbirth is the single biggest cause of maternal death which can kill a healthy woman within 2 hours if she is unattended to.

A release copied to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday by Fadéla Chaib, WHO Spokesperson, said urgent access to safe supplies of blood for transfusion was critical to saving women’s lives.

“When a new mother dies, not only does her baby face greater risk of death, malnourishment and lifelong disadvantage, but the whole family’s wellbeing is affected,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “If all obstetric facilities provided safe blood for transfusion, many of these mothers’ lives could be saved.”

The release said the safest source of blood is from regular, voluntary unpaid donors whose blood is screened for infections.

A World Health Assembly resolution in 2010 highlights that a secure supply of safe blood components, based on voluntary, non-remunerated blood donation, is an important national goal to prevent blood shortages.

“Today, in many low- and middle-income countries, blood supply is critically inadequate. Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world of 510 deaths per 100 000 live births, also has the lowest blood donation rates,” it stated.

According to the latest WHO survey on blood safety and availability, 40 African countries collect less than 10 blood donations per 1000 population per year; of these, 25 countries collect less than half the blood that they need to meet transfusion requirements.

It said high-income countries collect around 35 donations per 1000 population per year. The release noted that in many countries, family members are often pressured to donate blood or find a replacement donor in an emergency situation.

It said this caused emotional and financial stress and significant delays in obtaining suitable blood, and also put women at risk of blood-borne infections as there was often no time or facilities to properly screen the donated blood.

“Safe blood transfusion is one of the key life-saving interventions that should be available in all facilities that provide emergency obstetric care,” said Dr Edward Kelley, Director of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO. “Yet in 2014, equitable access to safe blood for obstetric care still remains a major challenge, contributing to high maternal mortality in many countries.”

It said currently, 73 countries collect more than 90 per cent of their blood supply from voluntary unpaid blood donors (38 are high-income countries, 26 middle-income countries and 9 low-income countries). It said about 108 million blood donations are collected worldwide every year, adding that almost half of these are collected in high-income countries, home to just 15 per cent of the world’s population.

The release said in low- and middle-income countries, a high proportion of blood supplies are needed for the management of complications of pregnancy and childbirth as well as for treating severe childhood anaemia.

It said in high-income countries, blood transfusion is most commonly used in heart surgery, transplant surgery, trauma and cancer therapy. WHO maintains that providing safe and adequate supplies of blood and blood products should be an integral part of every country’s efforts to improve maternal health.

The Organization provides policy guidance and technical assistance to support countries in developing national blood systems based on voluntary unpaid blood donations, and implementing quality systems to ensure that safe and quality blood and blood products are available and used appropriately for all people who need them.

World Blood Donor Day is celebrated annually around the world. It provides an opportunity to highlight the lifesaving role of voluntary unpaid blood donors and also thank those donors who give this precious gift, with no incentive to them, to save millions of lives every year.

This year Sri Lanka is hosting the global event for World Blood Donor Day in Colombo.