When we came face to face, one after the other, with the consequence of the pandemic, we started donating, paying more attention, and understanding much more about the country we live in. Issues that we were aware of – poverty, overpopulation, governance fallibilities – became more and more apparent.
However, there is still an issue that India has been dealing with long before the lockdown. An issue, like all others, became even more challenging to overcome with the pandemic. Blood scarcity.
There are an estimated 1,00,000 thalassemia patients and nearly 24,00,000 cases of blood cancer in India. These people need regular blood transfusions. Along with that, pregnant women and people who undergo surgeries require blood as well. While road accidents have significantly reduced, the demand for blood is still persistent and is not being adequately met.
Blood units can only be stored for around 6 weeks. While freezing blood is also a way of storing it – for years – it is a poor method that drains its value. Moreover, 95% of all blood units were collected via organising blood donation camps and only the remaining 5% were walk-in donations. While camps have come to a halt, walk-in donations alone (which too have lessened) are not sufficient to meet the demand.
As you can imagine, ever since the first lockdown, stored blood has been finishing up and blood banks have been running dry. There is only one way out of this, and that is having more people volunteer to donate blood. Blood isn’t manufactured like most other things that are made available for us. Donating blood is the only way of ensuring that it runs through everyone who needs it.
At the same time, concerns such as safety and hygiene during blood donation in the time time of COVID-19 are prevalent as well as important to address.
Several NGOs have come forward to help us with this problem. One of them is Khoon. Khoon has been trying to save lives by encouraging more donors to register, and by helping keep blood banks stocked. Since March 24, the NGO has been operating a national emergency toll-free helpline (1800 890 6465) to receive donor registrations, blood requests, and any emergency case
Keeping social distancing challenges such as travel restrictions in mind, Khoon also provided ambulance transportation service for all donors, right from their doorstep to the nearest blood bank. They also encouraged people to donate blood by arranging curfew passes. Travel restrictions have eased to a large extent and donors are free to transport themselves but the demand is still far from being met. They fear being exposed to the virus but it’s important to note that no case of coronavirus has spread through blood donation.
Since the safety of both the donor and the patient is of utmost importance, Khoon has been assuring that donors wear masks and thoroughly sanitise themselves before donating blood. They have also been only allowing donors with no travel history in the past 28 days to come forward and donate. Each and every blood bank they send their donors to is sanitised has complete staff and maintains social distancing norms. When the NBTC released its guidelines for organising blood donation camps in India, Khoon also started organising camps.
Since March, they have helped save 20,000 lives through the blood donations they have managed to receive both via walk-in donations and blood donation camps. Khoon has helped save more than 1,20,000 lives since it started in 2016 and maintains a database of 1,50,000 donors across India. However, there is still a long way to go.
India’s relationship with blood shortage is not a new one. It has existed since long before the pandemic, with a shortage of 1.95 million blood units in 2019. The estimated blood needs to be fulfilled in 2020 would have dropped far below.
Let us all come forward to donate something that we all have. To help save lives by donating blood, you can register here.
Every drop counts.