About 320 units of blood were collected during a blood donation drive in four dzongkhags that observed the world blood donor day yesterday.

Themed, ‘Be There for Someone Else. Give Blood. Share Life’ were observed in Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Trongsa and Zhemgang.

WHO Representative, Dr Rui Paulo De Jesus said Bhutan joins the global community on this special day with the health ministry, the BoB and WHO, to spearhead advocacy and awareness activities throughout Bhutan.

Of the 215 volunteers who turned up in Thimphu yesterday, 135 donated blood. Some 80 donors were deferred from donating because of medical conditions. Not having normal blood pressure, low hemoglobin count, on medication and underweight were some of the medical conditions.

About 150 people turned up for donation at Taktse College in Trongsa but only 75 could donate. Of the 91 people who came to donate blood in Panbang in Zhemgang, 75 donated. Only about 48 volunteers turned up to donate in Phuentsholing hospital, of which 35 donated and 12 were deferred.

According to the status report on blood safety and availability in Bhutan (2011-2016), Bhutan has seen a steady rise in total blood units collected over the years.

The report which demonstrates the national blood transfusion services’ works, progress and achievements in the last six years, was launched during the event to observe the day at the Bank of Bhutan (BoB) main branch at Chubachu, Thimphu.

The percentage of voluntary non-remunerated blood donations (VNRBD) has reached 77 percent in 2016 from 56 percent in 2011.

Dr Rui said there is a need for developmental partners and other stakeholders to strengthen the blood donation drive.

“We need the communities, especially young people to be socially responsible and help increase voluntary blood donation,” Dr Rui said.

He said Bhutan has been experiencing a substantial impact of road traffic accidents, 384 in 2016 and 15.1 per 100,000 and substantial burden of chronic non-communicable diseases that are well recognised emerging public health problems.

“These patients expect that blood and blood products supplied to them are collected and provided in a safe, timely and sustainable manner,” he added.

According to the report, the annual blood requirement in Bhutan is estimated to be 10,000 units. About 9,917 units were collected in 2016 with a blood donation rate of 12.5 per 1,000 population compared to 11 per 1,000 population in 2015.

Transfusion specialist with the national blood bank, Dr Mahrukh Getshen, said ensuring the provision of a safe and adequate supply of blood and its components is an essential element of any national health system.

“Blood transfusion service in Bhutan has come a long way providing not only blood and blood products to patients with acute blood loss but also catering to the blood needs of many chronic patients of cancer, on dialyses, on chemotherapy and organ failure that depend on blood and its components every day for their survival,” Dr Mahrukh Getshen said.

Blood transfusion service in the country is operated as units of the hospital laboratory services. There are 27 functional hospital-based blood centres throughout the country, with an annual collection ranging from 25 to nearly 4,000 units a centre.

In Bhutan, blood transfusion is commonly used to treat pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, severe childhood anaemia, massive trauma, therapy for solid and haematological malignancies and also for supportive care in various types of cancers and patients on regular dialysis, according to the report.

Such constant requirements, she said increase the demands for blood donation, necessitating more potential donors to be recruited, motivated, and brought into the general blood donor pool.

To mark the day, a mobile app called ‘Bhutan Blood4life’ was also launched.

Dr Mahrukh Getshen said through this app, interested individuals could register, make appointments and visits blood banks to donate blood. “It will also enable blood sourcing in times of emergencies and disasters.”

Certificates of appreciation were awarded to 17 regular blood donors, 19 donor organisations and two donor organisers for their valuable contribution.

Dechen Tshomo