Countries around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day on 14 June every year.  This raises awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank the voluntary unpaid blood donor for their live-saving gift of blood.

Blood transfusion saves lives and improves health.  A single unit of blood can benefit several patients by separating blood into its various components which allows a single unit of blood to benefit several patients and provides a patient only the blood component which is needed.

The focus for this year’s campaign, “Safe blood for saving mothers” hopes to raise awareness about why timely access to safe blood and blood products is essential for all countries as part of an approach to prevent maternal deaths.

Motherhood is often viewed as a positive and fulfilling experience for many women.  However for some, it can be associated with suffering, ill-health and even death. 

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Every day, one woman dies from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications in Lao PDR.  Severe bleeding during delivery and after childbirth is the number one cause of maternal death according to the Maternal Death Review result of Lao PDR in 2013.

According to a recent global report that came from the UN Inter-agency maternal mortality ratio estimate group, Lao PDR maternal mortality ratio stands at 220 per100 000 live births. It also confirms that Lao PDR is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal target for reduction of maternal deaths for 2015.

However, compared to other countries in this region, such as Cambodia at 170 per 100,000 live births and Vietnam at 49 per 100,000, 220 is still the highest figure in this region.

Ministries of Health, particularly in countries with high rates of maternal mortality are encouraged to take concrete steps towards ensuring that the health facilities in their country, have improved access to safe blood and blood products from volunteer donors, which can save the lives of women everywhere.

Lao PDR needs to continue to promote the act of voluntary non-remunerated or unpaid blood donation, and join countries around the world, to move toward achieving 100% voluntary blood donation.

In 2011, 71 countries reported collecting more than 90% of their blood supply from voluntary, unpaid blood donors.  Among them, 60 countries collect 100% of blood supply from voluntary unpaid blood donors.  This is a goal which we believe Lao PDR can work to achieve, to increase their blood supply from voluntary unpaid blood donors.

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“Blood donors are the lifeblood of a community and today, we are happy to join the Lao Red Cross and the National Blood Transfusion Centre in honouring these regular blood donors” commented Dr Juliet Fleischl at the event at Lao ITECC held in celebration of the World Blood Donor Day.  These programs for voluntary blood donation need to be expanded to other sectors of society, so as to achieve the goal of 100% blood supply from voluntary unpaid blood donors.

Regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donors are the safest group of donors as the prevalence of blood-borne infections is lowest among these donors. Around 107 million units of blood donations are collected globally every year. Nearly 50% of these blood donations are collected in high-income countries, home to 15% of the world’s population.

More than 800 units of blood were collected at the blood donation event, which also included panel discussion co-chaired by WHO Representative, Dr Juliet Fleischl together with the Lao Red Cross and the National Blood Transfusion Centre.

One of the key issues raised was funding for blood safety, as Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is the main donor for blood safety, has decided to hand this responsibility back to the Government of Lao PDR.  The question of funding would be an important point that will decide on the future of how this service will continue in Lao PDR.

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