WASHINGTON, DC – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has called for people to donate blood following a 20 percent drop in blood donations in Latin America and the Caribbean during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 2017.
“The pandemic has shown us that the contribution of blood donors is essential. Without them, the transfusions that help save millions of lives each year are not possible,” said PAHO Acting Assistant Director Dr. Marcos Espinal.
“The need for blood is universal, but access to it is not,” he added, stating that the situation is particularly serious in low- and middle-income countries.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, PAHO said 8.2 million units of blood were collected in 2020, benefiting more than one million people in need of a transfusion.
But in many countries, it said demand for blood outstrips supply, and blood services face the challenge of ensuring the availability of safe, quality blood and blood components. World Blood Donor Day was observed on Tuesday
PAHO said to prevent shortages and ensure safety, it recommends that 100 percent of blood and blood component donations come from voluntary and regular donors, and that family or friends of patients do not need to be called upon to replenish this life-saving resource.
But PAHO said the region is still far from reaching that goal. In 2020, it said 48 percent of the blood collected came from voluntary donors, two percent more than in 2017.
PAHO said while more than 80 percent of the blood in 10 countries came from regular altruistic donors, in nine others this proportion failed to reach 10 percent.
PAHO said it works with countries to increase voluntary donations and ensure safety.
World Blood Donor Day, established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005, highlights the importance of the availability of safe and sufficient blood and blood products for all, and to thank voluntary, repetitive and unpaid donors for their act of solidarity.