PAHO calls for increased blood and plasma donations to ensure a safe and sustainable supply

Woman donating blood

The supply of blood products in some countries of Latin America and the Caribbean remains below the minimum levels recommended by WHO.

Washington D.C., June 14, 2023 (PAHO)- In commemoration of World Blood Donor Day, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is highlighting the importance of regular, voluntary, blood and plasma donation to ensure countries maintain a safe and sustainable supply. The theme of the day this year is "Donate blood, donate plasma, share life, share often."

In a message to the Region, the PAHO Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, expressed his deep gratitude to all blood donors in the Americas for their invaluable contribution in giving life to those who need it most. Each blood and plasma donation is a valuable gift, essential to maintain an adequate supply, he said.

“The availability of blood or plasma affects all patients, especially those who need lifelong transfusion support or receive transfusions periodically,” added Dr. Barbosa. This is the case for patients with sickle cell anemia or thalassemia, or those with other chronic conditions, such as hemophilia, oncology patients or immunosuppressed patients.

According to latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2021, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the average blood donation rate per 1,000 inhabitants was 15 units, although some countries fell below the WHO-recommended minimum of 10 units.

The PAHO Director warned that “demand exceeds supply in many countries of our Region, and blood services, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, face the challenge of ensuring access to safe and quality blood".

WHO has also highlighted the need to increase plasma donations obtained through blood extraction in many countries to ensure an adequate supply of plasma proteins for patients. This is crucial for treating a variety of serious diseases such as hemophilia, immune disorders, infections, and severe disorders.

However, plasma shortages in many low- and middle-income countries limit the adequate treatment of patients. Globally, just 44 countries, six of them in Latin America and the Caribbean, use donated plasma to produce plasma derivatives such as immunoglobulins and clotting factors, considered essential medicines by WHO.

"We need more people across our region to become life savers by volunteering to regularly give blood or plasma," Dr. Barbosa said.

For both children and adults, transfusion of blood components is an essential part of the treatment of various diseases and medical disorders, saving lives and improving quality of life.

PAHO continues to work closely with countries of the Region to address the challenges related to the availability and quality of blood and blood components. This includes in the development of efficient and integrated blood services in health systems, as well as the promotion of voluntary and non-remunerated donations.

The development of strategies for health surveillance, hemovigilance, risk management, monitoring and evaluation is crucial to understand national challenges and the particular needs of each country.