x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Text bid to boost blood donations

Initiative follows tweet by Sheikh Mohammed that inspired hundreds.

Health officials hope a text alert system will encourage Dubai residents to donate blood.

They have been spurred on by a tweet from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Prime Minister and Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, which prompted hundreds of people to give blood.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has joined forces with telecommunications company Etisalat to send out a text message encouraging people to donate.

The move, announced during the Arab Health congress in Dubai, which began on Monday and ends tomorrow, will help the Dubai Blood Donation Centre, which normally sends texts to just a few regular donors, to reach out across the emirate, said Dr Laila Al Shaer, the director of the centre.

"According to this agreement, Etisalat will conduct a campaign every three months," she said. "In case of a shortfall [between the confirmed campaigns], we will also get their support by having texts sent to a random donor."

Maintaining a steady supply of donations is the main aim of the partnership with Etisalat, which will last three years.

"We have now started our new strategy, which is continuity. Giving blood is a continuous process," said Qadhi Saeed Al Murooshid, the director general of the DHA. "It is a great idea and we encourage other corporations to follow."

Ensuring the campaign's long-term success requires years of effort, said Ali Al Ahmed, the chief corporate communications officer at Etisalat. "For a cause like this, we need long-term commitment. We are not really trying to solve a crisis and, even if there was one, the centre is able to handle this, but we are trying to create a constant flow of blood."

The centre was pushed into the spotlight last week when Sheikh Mohammed visited the recently renamed Latifa Hospital to donate blood after hearing about the most recent seasonal shortfall.

His donation and tweet resulted in more than 500 people giving blood later that day. Hundreds more donated in the following days.

Those between 17 and 60 can donate blood, said Dr Al Shaer, although exceptions can be made.

Being pregnant, having recently visited a country with a malaria epidemic or getting a tattoo several months beforehand will result in a donor being held back. People with HIV or the Human papillomavirus (HPV) will never be eligible to donate, Dr Al Shaer added.

zalhassani@thenational.ae