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Speech by Dr Jean-Marc Olivé, WHO Representative in Viet Nam, on the topic of World Blood Donor Day

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Date: Monday, June 9, 2008
World Blood Donor Day, National Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion press conference, Ha Noi, Viet Nam
Speaker: Dr Jean-Marc Olivé,
WHO Representative in Viet Nam
  • Dr. Trang Ngoc Tang, President of VNRC,
  • Mr. Tran Quy Tuong, Deputy Director, Department of Therapy, MoH
  • Mr. Nguyen Van Phong, Deputy Director of VNRBD Department, Ha Noi
  • Prof. Nguyen Anh Tri, Director of NIHBT
  • Members of the press, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

The World Health Organization believes that safe access to blood is a universal human right.

But this goal is often not achieved - especially in developing countries.

Each year around the globe more than 80 MILLION units of blood are donated.

Only a third of that blood is collected in developing countries - where 80% of the world’s population lives.

Put another way - 60% of the global blood supply goes to just 20% of the world's population - mainly those in rich, developed countries.

To help turn this around, in 2004 WHO and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies created World Blood Donor Day.

World Blood Donor Day is celebrated each year on June the 14th.

Today I am here to tell you about this special day and to promote voluntary, unpaid blood donation.

When I talk about blood donation today – please remember I am referring to the selfless, and humanitarian act of voluntary, unpaid blood donation.

It is one of the greatest gifts you can give.  It helps save lives.

In almost every country around the world, there is a push to achieve 100% voluntary unpaid blood donation.  

Blood donors are literally the lifeblood of a community and are considered by WHO to be the safest source of blood.

Securing a large pool of blood donors is the only way to ensure that patients’ needs are met 365 days a year – whether it is for scheduled operations or emergencies.

Since 1994 Viet Nam has focused on increasing the number of blood donations and  has made a lot of progress.

Viet Nam has more than tripled the total number of donations collected since 1994.

It has increased from less than 15% to more than 65% the rate of voluntary blood donations.

This is very impressive and WHO congratulates all the agencies and individuals that have contributed to this strong and steady increase.

However, we have a lot more to do.

These increases are mostly due to intensive campaigns in Viet Nam’s major cities. 

Around 90% of Vietnam’s voluntary blood donations come from cities.

Viet Nam must now expand the success of its drive for voluntary unpaid blood donations to smaller cities, towns and rural areas.

Why is this so important?

Because Viet Nam still only collects about 40% of its total need for blood.  

That 60 percent shortfall costs lives.

There is a chronic shortage of blood throughout the year in many parts of the country. However, in addition, acute shortfalls occur in the summer months and during the Tet holiday period.  This is when the rate of blood donation drops significantly.

Some patients are dying because of a lack of blood available for transfusion.

Many of these patients are women and children and from poor and/or rural areas.

That is why is it so important to increase the total number of blood donations collected across the whole country – not just in the larger cities.

This is much more likely to be achieved if we can call on all sectors of society to give blood.

At the moment around 80% of blood donors in this country are under 25 years old.

Students and young people are the most vigorous donors - and we sincerely thank them for their efforts.

But – it is not just the young that might need a blood transfusion to save their life. 

It is young, old, rich, poor, male, female – it could be you, or the person next to you, your child, or any member of your family.

ALL sectors of society NEED blood– so all sectors should GIVE blood.

The theme for this years' World Blood Donor Day is "Giving Blood Regularly".

It is now widely known that the safest source of blood is from regular and repeat voluntary unpaid blood donors.  Paid, family and replacement donors are all higher risk groups than voluntary unpaid blood donors. 

But donating once, though very welcome, is not enough.

To ensure that Viet Nam has enough blood to save lives – it not only needs MORE blood donors – it needs MORE blood donors to give MORE often.

In Viet Nam only 35 percent of donors are regular donors.

So, we urge people to come forward to not only donate – but donate regularly.

And feel free to bring a friend or family member!

Donating blood is simple, safe and does not hurt.  It does not make you unwell or weak. There is nothing to be afraid of.

To the journalists here today - I urge you all to publicise widely the need for voluntary unpaid blood donation. But also, consider going to give blood yourselves.  Find out how simple it is and report on your experience. 

Help expel any concerns people may have.   Help us build on Viet Nam’s low number of regular blood donors.

This message is especially important as we move into the summer where shortages are common.

WHO would like to recognise the Ministry of Health, the Viet Nam Red Cross, the Youth Union, the Students Union, the Women's Union and the Health Bureau. 

You work hard across every Province to promote voluntary blood donation. We salute your efforts and encourage you to continue to expand the number of voluntary blood donors, especially regular blood donors, across the whole country.

And finally WHO would like to thank all existing blood donors. You are all heroes.  You save lives - and we salute you. But now we need more heroes and life savers, so please, give blood regularly, and save a life.

Thank you.