This year on June 14, Athens, Greece will host World Blood Donor Day 2018. Every year, on this day, countries around the world commemorate the World Blood Donor Day to remember how blood transfusions help save millions of lives each year. This is a date for governments and their health institutions to come together to promote altruistic donation and improve access to safe blood around the world. This year’s event aims to “promote international collaboration and ensure worldwide dissemination of and consensus on the principles of voluntary non-remunerated donation, while increasing blood safety and availability,” according to World Health Organization (WHO).

Altruistic donation is relatively scarce in Latin America, with many instead donating for a specific relative or friend who has been hospitalized. This means blood stores are not as highly-stocked as they could be. “LATAM presented increasing numbers in voluntary blood donors but the growth remains insufficient to cover the blood demands in the region,” said the most recent report on blood donation by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), published in 2015.

Also, the international organization said that in Latin America and the Caribbean, less than half of blood donors are volunteers. In Mexico, only 3 percent of donors are altruistic and 97 percent are donations are carried out by replacement or relatives, according to data from the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS).

Blood services are an essential part of the healthcare system and each government has the responsibility to deliver availability and safe access to blood supply for its people, says the WHO. But Mexico’s lack of altruistic donation is standing in the way of blood availability. “Mexico has to increase its additional amounts of blood supplies to cover contingencies such as natural disasters, because the country’s blood volume of 711,429 units in 66 banks is only enough to cover essential needs,” says IMSS.

As part of this global initiative, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration developed a sectorial program until 2018 that increases access to blood and promotes altruistic donation. “This program aims to promote the regionalization of the blood services in the National Health System, the creation and operation of a biovigilance system, continuous updating of the legal provisions for altruistic donation and the strengthening of the national registry of blood and stem cells,” says the health report.

The WHO says that universal access to safe blood transfusion and self-sufficiency in blood and blood products are key strategies for governments in developing nations to improve lifespans and meet the achievements of developing countries. For Mexico to achieve better blood services and better quality in its healthcare provision, the WHO made three major recommendations prior to Peña Nieto’s health program. “Mexico must assess the lack of availability of reliable data from blood services, hospital-based services and other blood banks, shift the reliance on family/replacement donors and improve blood testing procedures,” says the WHO.

Alessa Flores

by Alessa Flores

Industry Analyst and Journalist at Mexico Business Publishing

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