‘Cheap manual kits in blood transfusion lead to infectious diseases’

KARACHI: Use of poor quality manual kits in blood transfusion process is the leading reason behind spread of infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, apart from donors with risky behaviours.

This was stated by Hasan Abbas Zaheer, National Coordinator of the Safe Blood Transfusion Programme (SBTP) while speaking to Dawn with respect to the World Blood Donors Day.

The day was observed on Friday across the world to raise awareness of blood donation to ensure that all individuals have accessibility and timely supplies of safe and quality assured blood and blood products.

In Pakistan, national health organisations marked the day by holding campaigns to raise awareness of the need for more, safe blood donations, as the country battles an ongoing, safe blood shortage problem.

According to Mr Zaheer, protocols for blood donation, which include behavioural screening, physical examination, serological screening for hepatitis B and C, HIV, malaria and syphilis, must be met at blood banks to prevent spread of diseases.

“Often, blood banks lack an automated system for serological screening, which is done manually with poor quality kits, increasing vulnerability of diseases’ spread,” he explained, adding that trained technical staff was another mandatory requirement for safe blood transfusion.

About government measures for safe blood transfusion, he said that the government was working with the support of German government and had set up 10 regional blood centres over the past decade across the country.

“These centres, one of which is located in Sukkur, are linked up to 60 hospitals to provide timely blood supplies,” he said.

Asked about blood’s shortage in the country, he said this was partially true.

“The system largely relies on donations by patient’s relatives, though it should be a regular voluntary process without creating any inconvenience to the patient family.”

Around three per cent of country’s population should donate blood in order to meet country’s needs. “Pakistan has additional transfusion needs due to the high burden of thalassaemia and other blood disorders. Hence, we need about three per cent of our population to donate blood on a regular basis, two to three times a year to sustain our blood transfusion system on 100 per cent voluntary non-remunerated blood donations,” he said.

Social media platforms are also rallying behind the cause. Facebook (FB) launched its blood donation feature in 2017 and in Pakistan last year.

The feature allows people to sign up as blood donors and to locate their nearest blood donation centres and those who need blood urgently. Since 2018, more than two million people have signed up to be blood donors on Facebook in Pakistan out of 35 million globally.

Hashtags such as #SafeBloodForAll and #DonateBlood were used across social media platforms on Friday to raise awareness.

The federal government’s efforts had now entered their second phase and services were being upgraded and expanded, he added.

According to some estimates, of the 117.4 million blood donations collected globally, 42 per cent of these are collected in high-income countries, home to 16pc of the world’s population.

In low-income countries, up to 52pc of blood transfusions are given to children under five years of age, according to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

An adequate and reliable supply of safe blood can be assured by a stable base of regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donors. These donors are also the safest group of donors as the prevalence of blood-borne infections is lowest among them, says the WHO.

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