The Problem of Blood Deficit in India
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According to the World Health Organisation, providing safe and adequate blood should be an integral part of every country’s national health care policy and infrastructure. The WHO further says, to fulfill the need, blood should be donated between 1% and 3% of a country’s population. Yet many countries are quite far from meeting even the 1% mark, and India is one of them.
If you go by figures, there was a shortage of 1.9 million units of blood collected, that could have aided more than 320,000 heart surgeries or 49,000 organ transplants, as against the target of 13 million units, in 2016-17. The shortfall was actually worse than the 2015-16 period when the deficit stood at 9% compared to a 12 million unit target.
In general terms, India needs to cover a deficit of over 12 lakh units, considering that India has an eligible donor population of over 512 million. Going by the numbers, the shortfall is shocking.
Why the deficit
The prime cause behind India facing a dearth of blood donors is the lack of knowledge about the entire process, especially in the less developed states. People consider it as a very complicated process besides harboring various other myths around the blood donation. A very big and common misconception that keeps people away from the noble cause is that donating blood reduces masculinity in males. Women feel they cannot donate blood as it weakens their immune system. Besides, menstruation is seen as an unnecessary issue. Ban on payment on blood donors is considered another major reason why India is facing a shortage of blood. While earlier, almost one-third of the blood supply was from paid donors, both the private and government hospitals have suffered following the ban. However, there is a positive side to this ban as it has put an end to unsafe blood donations.
Taking into consideration the general trends, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Kerala are the best performers when it comes to blood donation, with each state accounting an excess blood supply of over 35%. Sikkim too felt in the same category. The state that initially faced a deficit, had witnessed an increase in the availability of blood by 22%, leading to a surplus of 4%. However, sadly, the states also witnessed higher incidents regarding blood wastage, in terms of collected blood exceeding the shelf life, which is 30-45 days. In that case, the collected blood has to be disposed of without being used. Talking about states that have struggled to meet their blood requirements by more than 50%, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Meghalaya tops the chart.
What can be done
The primary solution that should be implemented and worked upon is the expansion of national transfusion services, blood management systems, and alternatives to blood transfusions, that will bring down the percentage and amount of blood wastage. Better communication between blood banks, donation camps, and hospitals should also be brought in place to avoid wastage. Also, a lot more needs to be done financially and structurally to ensure the supply, quality, and safety of blood.
The government and other related bodies should organize more flash mobs and blood donation camps and events to increase people’s participation in the noble cause. NGOs such as Save Life Foundation, Red Cross, Rotary Club, HelpDonate as well as active civil society members are coming out to contribute their bit in this regard. Besides, these foundations are taking initiatives in busting various myths regarding blood donation, which is encouraging more people to come forward and donate. The government should also come up with more blood banks to overcome the deficit. According to data, the officials have planned to set up blood banks in India’s 68 districts to provide services in the rural hinterland.
According to WHO, for every 1,000 people in any country, a minimum of 10-20 donors is required to provide adequate supplies. As per government data, 34 per 1,000 eligible people must donate blood at least once in a year to fulfill the estimated clinical demand for blood. Diseases like anemia, sickle cell disease, a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia, or cancer increase the demand for blood in the country. Major operations, cancer-related procedures like chemotherapy, and pregnancy complications require a blood transfusion. We hope, in the coming times, we move on the right path and become successful in solving the urgent issue of blood deficit in the country and more people come forward for the noble cause, as in this case too, every drop counts.