Blood donors around the world got a pat on the back last week, as the World Heath Organization (WHO) stamped June 14 “World Blood Day.”

Everyday millions of people feel the jab of a donation needle, giving pints of blood that can help save lives, and last Tuesday was a chance to reflect on this generosity, said the WHO in their reasons for labeling the day.

“Safe blood is a fundamental need for the health system of any country,” said Dr Lee Jong-wook, Director-General of the WHO in a press statement. “WHO’s 192 Member States have recently agreed that World Blood Donor Day will be an officially recognized annual event. This will help raise awareness of the continuing need for safe blood and safe donors,” added Jong-wook.

Apart from thanking current blood donors, World Blood Day also aimed to point out that access to safe blood is only available for two out of ten people worldwide, leaving the other eight potentially in peril. Furthermore, only 30% of countries currently have a national blood transfusion service.

Part of the celebrations, which included a “gallery” in London’s Trafalgar Square with pictures of 100 selected blood recipients, therefore aimed to increase awareness about the need for blood donation.

However, the news from the WHO is not all bleak, as they point out progress made in Malawi, a sub-tropical country in Southern Africa. The 12 million people in Malawi have been hard hit by HIV/AIDS, which significantly affects the mortality rate there. Despite this health concern, a safe blood service has been set up in Malawi, decreasing the death rate in children in some cases by 60%.

In Canada, Canadian Blood Services — a not-for-profit charitable organization that manages 840,000 units of blood annually for Canadians — suggests that the need for blood supplies in this country continues to grow, but less than four percent of people donated blood last year.

In response to this, Raymonde Gaumont, a Canadian whose 738 donations ranks highest among females in the country, speaks passionately about blood donation on the Canadian Blood Services website, which she calls a social responsibly.

“I first gave blood at the age of 18 when I enlisted in the Canadian Forces. The military life and blood donation system are united by a strong historical connection. Health is a privilege and, as human beings, we have a responsibility to share it,” Gaumont is quoted as saying on the site.

Canadian Blood Services is also promoting a bill that was introduced into the Senate on May 5, 2005, which wants to make the second week of June “National Blood Donor Week.”

* * *