1. Dumelang Bagaetsho, today the 14th of June 2020 is the #WorldBloodDonorDay; a day dedicated to raising awareness on the need for regular blood donations to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to affordable and timely supplies of safe and quality-assured blood and blood products. The Day also serves to express gratitude to voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gift of blood.
2. Like several Health Days’ commemorations that have preceded this day, we are yet again unable to engage in our traditional celebratory commemorations due to the current COVID- 19 pandemic. That notwithstanding, there has never been a greater necessity than now, to demonstrate the need for universal access to safe blood transfusion; the need for advocacy on its role in the provision of effective health care and in achieving universal health coverage.
3. The theme for this year’s World Blood Donor Day is “Safe blood saves lives” with the slogan “Give blood and make the world a healthier place”. The theme that focuses on the contribution an individual giver can make to improve health for others in the community. Blood donations are needed all over the world to ensure individuals and communities have access to safe and quality-assured blood and blood products in both normal and emergency situations.
4. Bagaetsho, Botswana like many countries, still experiences inadequate supply of safe blood which can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary unpaid blood donors. Globally, 42% of blood is collected in high-income countries, which are home to only 16% of the world’s population. Statistics reveal that in 2019 a total of 24,690 units of blood were collected in Botswana, which was a slight decline from the previous year’s collection of 26,365. A drastic decline in blood collection during the first quarter of the year 2020 has thus far been recorded.
5. Botswana’s blood bank recorded 855 collections against a target of 2679 in May 2020 (a difference of 1467 pints), as compared to 2039 in May 2019. Botswana annual blood collection target is 45000 units and should be attained by the year 2023 and our combined efforts will surely take us there. Let us remember that a reduction of blood and blood products is a major healthcare services risk.
6. Currently, the shortfall in collection is addressed through targeted campaigns and directed donation, where family members or friends are encouraged to donate blood for their kin and kith. However, there should be a movement towards 100% voluntary blood donation, and all government and non-government agencies, policymakers, health workers and everyone needs to be a part of it.
7. I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to all government agencies, partners and non-state actors who continue to collaborate with us in seeking to raise awareness, as well ensure that the country’s set targets for blood collections are met; I similarly wish to make a call to action for all stakeholders to provide adequate resources and systems to increase the collection of blood from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors; to provide quality donor care; to promote and implement appropriate clinical use of blood; and to set up processes for the oversight and surveillance on the whole value chain of blood transfusion.
8. I also wish to thank our champions; those who regularly donate blood, for their commitment and support. My Ministry appreciates their selfless contributions to ensure uninterrupted blood supply, and it is our hope and trust that they keep the spirit. I wish to assure them that their kind gesture will not go unnoticed.
9. Let me conclude by assuring you Bagaetsho, that in our endeavor to maximize blood collection, compliance to quality standards remains our priority. This includes, adherence to measures that prevent the spread of Covid-19 as provided in our public health regulations like social distancing, maintenance of hand hygiene and consistent use of face masks.
10. Remember, it is still safe to donate blood and be transfused with blood during the error of Covid-19 as long as compliance to preventive measures is maintained. I therefore urge you not to shy away from donating blood for any fear of your safety. Remember to stay safe by avoiding any behaviors that may expose you to contract Covid-19 infection.