Today is World Blood Donor Day. A blood transfusion takes place every 48 seconds in South Africa. Meeting this demand depends on regular blood donors, as well as reaching out to new ones. If you’ve stopped donating or never have, here is some info on how you can take action.
Thousands of traffic accidents happen on South Africa’s highways every year, particularly during the peak December period. Surprisingly, this has little effect on the demand for blood. Only 4% of donated blood is used to treat people in accidents. That’s very little compared to the 28% that is used to treat chronic diseases like leukemia, the 26% used for women who hemorrhage during childbirth or the 26% used by patients undergoing surgery.
The 14th of June is World Blood Donor Day. The event takes place all over the world and serves to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products. To find out more about World Blood Donor Day check out our article from 2016.
High Demand – Low Interest
This means that the demand for blood in South Africa stays pretty steady all-year round. Shortages aren’t caused by a greater number of accidents or surgeries but by a lack of new donors and regular donors skipping their donations during long weekends or over holidays. This means that blood shortages have more to do with a shortage of donations than anything else, highlighting how important blood donors are to saving lives in South African hospitals. Less than 1% of South Africans are active blood donors.
SANBS spokesperson Vanessa Raju has said that “a shortage of blood hinders our ability to save hundreds of lives daily because, without an adequate supply, essential treatment for various patients cannot occur.”
Many young people have never donated blood. Many who have donated, stop after starting university because they don’t know where to donate. The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) has permanent donation stations all over the country, and they also host temporary mobile clinics at universities, hospitals, and public spaces. By letting you know how and where to donate blood in your town or city, we hope that we can turn more young South Africans into regular blood donors.
Who is in Charge of Blood Donations?
Almost all blood donations are handled by the SANBS. This non-profit organisation recruits blood donors, encourages South African’s to donate regularly and runs donation centres all around the country. The SANBS helps South Africa meet its demand for blood, important medical services – like transfusions, and well-trained healthcare professionals
Some towns like Stellenbosch don’t have fixed donation stations but often host mobile donation sites at hospitals and universities. To find the site closest to you, click here. If there isn’t a clinic close to you, you can phone the SANBS to find out when a mobile clinic will be near you next. If you’re in the Western Cape, this site will tell you where mobile clinics are throughout the year.
The Donation Process
Donating blood only takes about 30 minutes. Not sure whether you’re eligible to donate? No problem. Take this quick two minute test to see if you can donate blood:
- If you’re eligible, you can proceed with the donation process
- You will be seated in a comfortable chair where you’ll need to confirm your name, address, and date of birth
- They will examine your arm and place a cuff on your arm to keep pressure during the donation
- They will then find a suitable vein and clean the area with antiseptic
- They will then place a new, sterile needle in your arm and collect 480ml of your blood
- This should take 5-10 minutes and you should not feel discomfort or pain
- The needle will then be removed and a sterile dressing will be applied
- You can then lie down and chill for a bit
Some after donation tips:
- Increase your fluid intake for 4-6 hours after donation
- Don’t smoke for at least an hour and a half after donation
- Avoid strenuous activities for 2 hours after donation
There are a few reasons why you may not be able to donate. This includes being younger than 16, being underweight (50kg is the minimum), having low blood pressure, being on certain kinds of medication or having recently visited a malaria area, undergone surgery or gotten a tattoo. You can find a full list of common reasons for being deferred here, someone at the donation station will talk you through all the reasons you may not be able to donate as well.
There are many reasons young people are hesitant to donate blood. Many don’t know where to go to donate, others are convinced that they wouldn’t be able to handle the pain of the needle. Some just feel very anxious about the whole process and decide not to go.
We would really encourage you to head down to a donation station and at least ask if you are able to donate. The process is almost painless, and it only takes about 30 minutes. This is your chance to make a real difference!