PAHO report on access to safe blood urges countries in the Region to promote voluntary non-remunerated donations

30 Sep 2020
Health worker during blood donation

Washington, DC, 30 September 2020 (PAHO/WHO)— A report from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) describes the results obtained after the implementation of the Plan of Action for Universal Access to Safe Blood for the period 2014-2019. This Plan, approved in 2014 by the countries of the Region, sought to ensure safe and sufficient supplies of blood and blood products through voluntary altruistic donations, with the goal of saving lives and improving the health of patients who need transfusions.

The report, which was published this week during the 58th PAHO Directing Council, notes that 22 countries already have a national blood plan and 19 countries have improved efficiency and are processing more than 5,000 units of blood per blood bank/year, an increase that is due to higher blood collection rates in some blood services. 

It also highlights that more than 14 countries in the Americas have established their blood needs, which allows better organizing the blood service network and the needs for blood collection and donors.

However, the report mentions that ensuring regular non-remunerated, altruistic, voluntary donation as the first pillar of blood safety and availability remains a challenge. In this sense, it indicates that countries’ progress towards the 100% target for this type of donation was limited. 

Nevertheless, according to the report, voluntary donation supplied more than 90% of blood units in 11 countries and between 50% and 90% in five countries. Non-remunerated voluntary donors had donated more than 4.8 million units of blood by 2017, which is evidence of the efforts of some countries.

The report also highlights that progress was made on all indicators related to quality management in the national blood system and screening for transfusion-transmissible infectious agents, and the expected outcome was achieved. By 2017, screening in Latin American and Caribbean countries for markers such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and C, and syphilis had reached 100%, and screening for Trypanosoma cruzi (Chagas disease) stood at 95%. 

The report states that the area of health surveillance, hemovigilance, and risk management remains a major challenge. There are few countries where the regulatory authority is involved in monitoring activities and where surveillance systems capture adverse events in blood donors and recipients. 

Among the recommendations, it mentions the need to increase voluntary non-remunerated donation, and to strengthen governance of blood services, with emphasis on health surveillance, hemovigilance, risk management, and organization of blood services. 

The document Plan of Action for Universal Access to Safe Blood: Final Report, is the result of the Resolution CD53.R6 approved by the 53rd PAHO Directing Council, in 2014.