Safe blood saves lives

| Updated on February 28, 2020

The WHO’s new action plan to speed up universal access to safe blood and blood products pulls together existing recommendations and suggests new improved ways of working. It’s the start of a four-year collaborative effort to improve blood transfusion and blood-based therapies in all countries.

Safe blood saves lives in all sorts of circumstances, not least in emergency and epidemic settings. Blood transfusion and blood products are critical for birth delivery, for both the mother and baby; the survival and quality of life of patients suffering from life-threatening conditions, such as haemophilia, thalassemia, immune deficiency and cancer; treating severe injuries and carrying out medical and surgical procedures. But progress in blood safety and availability has been slow in many parts of the world, placing patients’ safety at risk and putting undue pressure on health workers. Progress is also mostly restricted to developed countries. Out of the approximate 118 million blood donations collected globally, 42 per cent are collected in high-income countries, home to 16 per cent of the world’s population. And one out of four low-income countries do not test all donated blood, while 54 per cent of countries do not have surveillance systems to securitise the supply chain from blood donor to patient.

Challenges include: slow implementation of national blood policies and weak blood regulatory systems; insufficient number of voluntary blood donors (who are considered the safest donors); poor quality management of screening tests, blood grouping and compatibility testing; inappropriate clinical use of blood; and insufficient national funding for blood safety.

Published on February 28, 2020

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