x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Blood bank pumps up efforts to promote donation in UAE

The blood bank needs 10 per cent more donations than it currently receives to meet the demands of a growing population.

Dr Naima Qumeziane, Hematology Head at the Abu Dhabi Blood Bank, is leading the drive to get more blood due dropping stock levels. Delores Johnson / The National
Dr Naima Qumeziane, Hematology Head at the Abu Dhabi Blood Bank, is leading the drive to get more blood due dropping stock levels. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // Blood donation clinics across the UAE are urging more people to give the gift of life and help raise stock levels.

Despite more people than ever donating blood, the Abu Dhabi Blood Bank, which is operated by Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, said that, as the population grew, it needed about 10 per cent more donations, to keep blood stocks at a healthy level.

And Dr Laila Al Shaer, head of the Dubai Blood Donation Centre, said that the city needed an extra 2,000 donors a year to keep pace with the population.

Last year, the Abu Dhabi bank received 27,818 units of blood – a slight increase from 27,093 in 2011 and 25,500 in 2010.

Although there was no desperate shortage of blood, the bank experienced a decrease in available units during holidays and in the summer months. It was hoping to raise awareness of the need for more regular donors.

Naima Oumeziane, the medical head of the Abu Dhabi Blood Bank, said that blood inventory levels vary depending on demand, the availability of people to donate and seasonal chronic shortfall of blood.

“Shortages are frequent during holidays and Ramadan times,” she said. “As the blood has a limited shelf-life, a permanent recruitment of blood donors is needed.

“We need to raise the importance of blood donation in saving lives of patients who have no other treatment alternatives.

“The increasing population leads to increase of demands, which leads to increase of collections. Shortages can occur any time.”

While Dr Oumeziane said there was no “ideal” amount of units the blood bank aimed to collect each year, the goal was to increase donations by about 10 per cent to fulfil demand, which was increasing every year.

As blood banks only stored freshly donated blood for a maximum of six weeks, people should try to make regular donations, she said.

Ideally, men should donate every two months, with a maximum of five donations a year, while women should donate a maximum of three times a year. “Blood is a product that cannot be manufactured,” Dr Oumeziane said. “Transfusion therapy can take place only when people volunteer and donate the gift of life, which is blood. If there is no blood donation, there is no life.”

Those who most benefit from blood donations were patients suffering from thalassaemia, a blood disorder that affected haemoglobin and the red blood cell count. Thalassaemia patients each required about 34 donations each year.

Cancer patients and sickle cell patients also greatly benefited from blood donations, added Dr Oumeziane.

Those that donated provide a lifeline to these patient and regular donors who gave blood throughout the year were desperately needed.

In Dubai, Dr Al Shaer said the need for more regular blood donors was a countrywide issue.

Although her blood bank noticed an increase in donors last year, Dr Al Shaer said about 2,000 extra donors were needed in Dubai alone.

“The problem, as we know, is that all blood has a shelf-life,” she said.

“We need regular donors all the time. This is the same for all of the UAE.”

Describing the blood-donating process, Dr Al Shaer said it was a simple and pain-free procedure that took no longer than 45 minutes. “What I would say to people thinking about giving blood is that your donation really is a precious thing,” she said. “You cannot find it. You cannot buy it. People have to donate it.

“We should not wait for the patient to cry out for help. We should prepare ourselves all of the time.”