New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) Six-year-old Anushka suffers from thalassemia and requires regular blood transfusion. However, arranging one unit of ‘A negative’ blood has become a nightmare for her parents, as summer brings an acute shortage of donors in the capital.
Delhi’s blood banks often dry up in summer owing to dwindling blood donation camps, which in turn rely heavily on student donors who are usually away on vacation at this time of the year.
“Mostly students contribute blood. With schools and colleges shut for summer vacation, the blood banks run out of blood and its components. There is a sharp fall in blood donation camps during summer,” N.K. Bhatia, medical director of Rotary Blood Bank, Noida, told IANS.
“There is so much shortage of blood during summer and on top of that many blood banks waste human blood – at least 30 percent,” Bhatia said.
“There is irrational use of blood in India. One unit of blood belonging to the same group can be used by three different patients,” he added.
According to a senior official from the blood safety division of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO): “India requires 10 million units of blood every year, but the country manages to get only 7.9 million units. Out of 7.9 million units, 68 percent is donated by volunteers.”
Delhi-NCR requires 600,000 units of blood a year (around 40,000 units of blood each month) but it gets only 400,000 units.
At least 100,000 pregnant women die every year because of shortage of blood in the country. Many thalassemia patients also die every year because of shortage of blood.
“Over 65 percent of our donors are from educational institutions. Most educational institutions are on holidays at this time and hence there is a huge shortage in supply. Usually during this time we ask relatives of patients to replace the blood,” said Amar Sharma, compounder at a civic body-run hospital.
Shortage of blood and its components during the summer gives rise to various illegal activities, such as illegal sale of blood, say health officials.
The price of rare blood group types like ‘O negative’ and ‘AB negative’ are quite high. In private blood banks, the processed blood of the above category can go up from Rs.1,500 to Rs.5,000 per unit. The prescribed rate by the government is Rs.500 per unit.
“Under the supervision of government authorities, the private blood banks can also organise blood donation camps. It will help in coping with the shortage of blood that arises during summer,” said Rasika Setia, consultant in transfusion medicine at the Dr. B.L. Kapur Memorial Hospital.
“The population we rely on for donating blood – students in schools and colleges – go on holiday during summer and there are no routine blood donation camps happening during this period,” she added.
Countering that no such shortage prevails, a senior official from the blood safety division of NACO told IANS on condition of anonymity: “There is no such shortage in the city so far. We have a good model of voluntary donations. Not only the student community but there is a mixed population now coming forward to donate blood.”
A volunteer from an NGO suggested ways to tackle the problem.
“Employees of IT and BPO industry can be approached for blood donation during summer. Mobile blood units should be set up at various shopping malls,” he said.