A rush of blood

Burma will launch a blood-donation system in July to help meet the demands of the country’s health system, officials announced on Sunday at an event marking World Blood Donor Day.

Dr Thinda Aung of the National Blood Centre said that a new mobile system – a ‘bloodmobile’ – will be doubly effective, allowing donors to give blood locally as well as creating a supply of the in-demand resource in areas without blood centres.

“At times when there is heavy traffic or harsh weather it is not always very practical to sit and wait for blood donors to show up. Since 2012 we have been thinking that it would be more efficient to go and collect blood at workplaces and such.

“There are [bloodmobile] systems in other countries too, like in England, where they travel around to about nine different areas everyday. Normally, we only need to be at the centre to test blood and prepare components. The bloodmobile is a donation by a Thai business through the Royal Thai Embassy,” said Thinda Aung.

Ministry of Health Director Dr Myint Han told DVB of the challenges facing Burma’s current blood-donation system.

“Ideally, we need a blood centre in every township and we will continue to work towards that. But I don’t think that can happen anytime soon as there are a lot of requirements, such as a regular electricity supply to allow storing of the blood, staff members and a well-established system for blood distribution. At the moment, there are blood banks at administrative region- and central-level hospitals, and at some 200-bed or 300-bed hospitals,” he said.

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A man suffering from the blood disease haemophilia told DVB that an increase in donation is desperately needed, saying, “There are many children suffering from the same condition I have and their lives depend on blood donors. I want to urge sympathisers to donate more blood.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s 2009 Melbourne Declaration binds member states to a commitment to receive 100% of its blood supplies through voluntary and unpaid donations. Countries with ailing, under-resourced health systems such as Burma’s struggle to meet the WHO’s target of a safe and sustainable supply of blood and blood products which, the UN organisation says, is the responsibility of the government.

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