Donating blood is important because it helps to save lives and improve health. For example, blood transfusions are required for: women with complications of pregnancy, such as ectopic pregnancies and haemorrhage before, during or after childbirth; children with severe anaemia often resulting from malaria or malnutrition; people with severe trauma following human-made and natural disasters; and many complex medical and surgical procedures and cancer patients. Regularly donating blood is also essential since there is a constant need for regular blood supply. Blood can only be stored for a limited time before use. Consequently, regular blood donations by a sufficient number of healthy people are needed to ensure that safe blood will be available whenever and wherever it is needed. Every year, many patients around the world die or suffer unnecessarily because they do not have access to safe blood transfusion.
As I spoke with several doctors and health workers at the blood drive event in Adi Keih, I was especially happy to learn that so many young college students were voluntarily donating blood. Generally, countries around the world face a significant and ongoing challenge to collect sufficient blood from safe donors to meet national requirements, and the donation of blood by voluntary non-remunerated blood donors is recognized as being crucial for the safety and sustainability of national blood supplies. Systems based on replacement donation by the family and friends of patients requiring transfusion are rarely able to meet clinical demands for blood while paid “donation” poses serious threats to the health and safety of the recipients as well as the donors themselves (WHO 2010).
Personally, I give blood for a number of reasons. For one, it is a moral imperative to help others. Second, I give blood to contribute to a public good. Someone that I know (or even I myself) may need blood sometime in the future, and it is thus only right that I give blood if I can. Third, there a number of potential benefits of giving blood, including the revelation of potential health problems, the reduction of harmful iron stores, a decrease in the risk of suffering a heart attack or developing cancer, and an improvement in cardiovascular health. Fourth, I see donating blood as representing one of the most precious gifts that one can give to another person — the gift of life.
Finally, as an Eritrean, I choose to donate blood and support those in need because I recognize that many Eritreans shed their blood and paid the ultimate sacrifice in order bring independence and defend sovereignty. Notably, World Blood Donor Day, established and sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), the International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations, and the International Society of Blood Transfusion, will be celebrated on 14 June. Celebrated in countries around the world, the day and its associated events aim to raise awareness of the importance of blood donation and recognize the contribution of voluntary non-remunerated blood donors in saving lives and improving health. With Eritrea’s Martyr’s Day – one of the most important days on the Eritrean calendar – being commemorated less than a week after World Blood Donor Day, it seems that there is no better way to recognize the immense sacrifices of our martyrs than by donating blood to save lives and promote health in our country.