Following the success of the World Health Day 2000 with the theme 'Blood Saves Lives', 14th June is observed as the World Blood Donors Day. The date coincides with the birth date of Karl Landsteiner, who discovered the ABO blood group system.
Millions of people owe their lives to people they will never meet – people who donate their blood freely and without any reward. However, the overwhelming majority of the world’s population does not have access to safe blood. Over 80 million units of blood are donated every year, but only 38% are collected in developing countries where 82% of the global population lives.
In addition, many countries remain dependent on donation by the families or friends of patients who require blood and, in some countries, blood donors still receive payment.Yet evidence from around the world demonstrates that voluntary unpaid donors are the foundation of a safe blood supply because they are least likely to transmit potentially life-threatening infections, such as HIV and hepatitis viruses, to the recipients of their blood. It is to these unsung heroes that World Blood Donor Day is dedicated.
World Blood Donor Day builds on the success of World Health Day 2000 which was devoted to the theme ‘Blood Saves Lives. It also builds on International Blood Donor Day organized annually by the International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations since 1995.
While it is hoped that World Blood Donor Day will create wider awareness of the importance of voluntary blood donation and encourage more people to become regular blood donors, the purpose is not to attract a big influx of new donors on 14 June. Rather, it is designed to celebrate and thank those individuals who voluntarily donate their blood without any reward, except the knowledge that they have helped to save lives, particularly those who give blood on a regular basis two, three or more times each year. It is our hope that a new generation of blood donors will follow their example, providing the safest blood possible for use wherever and whenever it is needed to save life. Youth will therefore be the focus of the day.
The day will also provide an opportunity to highlight the fact that voluntary non-remunerated blood donors are the foundation of a safe blood supply because they are associated with significantly lower levels of infections that can be transmitted by transfusion, including HIV and hepatitis viruses. Screening for transfusion-transmissible infections is essential, but the safest donations come from the safest donors.
14 June has been selected as World Blood Donor Day by three major organizations working for voluntary non-remunerated blood donation: the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations and the International Society of Blood Transfusion. These organizations have been joined by the World Health Organization, which is co-sponsoring the event. Between them, they represent 192 Member States, 181 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 50 national voluntary blood donor organizations and blood transfusion specialists throughout the world.