World Blood Donor Day (14 June 2019): Safe Blood For All

June 14th is celebrated as World Blood Donor Day each year.

The event serves to thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood and also to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to affordable and timely supplies of safe and quality-assured blood and blood products, as an integral part of universal health coverage and a key component of effective health systems.

Background Information:

There are 3 types of blood donors:

  • voluntary unpaid
  • family/replacement
  • paid.

An adequate and reliable supply of safe blood can be assured by a stable base of regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donors. These donors are also the safest group of donors as the prevalence of blood-borne infections is lowest among this group.

Data reported to WHO shows significant increases of voluntary unpaid blood donations in low- and middle-income countries:

  • An increase of 11.6 million blood donations from voluntary unpaid donors from 2008 to 2015 has been reported by 139 countries.
  • The highest increase of voluntary unpaid blood donations is in the South-East Asian (83%) Region and the Americas (70%). The maximum increase in absolute numbers was reported in the South-East Asia region (5.9 million donations), followed by the Western Pacific Region (2.7 million donations) and African Region (1.1 million).
  • 78 countries collect more than 90% of their blood supply from voluntary unpaid blood donations. This includes 56 countries with 100% (or more than 99%) of their blood supply from voluntary unpaid blood donors.

WHO recommends that all blood donations should be screened for infections prior to use. Screening for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis should be mandatory. Blood screening should be performed according to the quality system requirements. Of reporting countries, 13 are not able to screen all donated blood for 1 or more of the above infections.

Globally 32% of blood donations are given by women, although this ranges widely. In 14 of the 119 reporting countries, less than 10% of donations are given by female donors.

The age profile of blood donors shows that, proportionally, more young people donate blood in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.

42% of the 117.4 million blood donations collected globally are collected in high-income countries, home to 16% of the world’s population.

In low-income countries, up to 52% of blood transfusions are given to children under 5 years of age; whereas in high-income countries, the most frequently transfused patient group is over 65 years of age, accounting for up to 75% of all transfusions.

The blood donation rate is

  • 32.6 donations/ 1000 people in high-income countries,
  • 15.1 donations/ 1000 people in upper-middle-income countries,
  • 8.1 donations/ 1000 people in lower-middle-income countries and
  • 4.4 donations/ 1000 people in low-income countries.

Only 50 of 173 reporting countries produce plasma-derived medicinal products (PDMP) through the fractionation of plasma collected in the reporting country. A total of 83 countries reported that all PDMP are imported, 24 countries reported that no PDMP were used during the reporting period, and 16 countries did not respond to the question.

Key Messages:

The world needs enough safe blood for everyone in need.

Every few seconds, someone, somewhere, needs blood.

Transfusions of blood and blood products save millions of lives every year.

Health is a human right; everyone in the world should have access to safe blood transfusions, when and where they need them.

Regular blood donations are needed all over the world to ensure individuals and communities have access to safe and quality-assured blood and blood products.

Everyone who can donate blood should consider making regular voluntary, unpaid donations, so that all countries have adequate blood supplies.


Ensuring the safety and well-being of blood donors is critical; it helps build commitment to regular donations.

Access to safe blood and blood product is essential for universal health coverage and a key component of effective health systems.

Blood and blood products are essential to care for:

  • women with pregnancy and childbirth associated bleeding;
  • children with severe anaemia due to malaria and malnutrition;
  • patients with blood and bone marrow disorders, inherited disorders of haemoglobin and immune deficiency conditions;
  • people with traumatic injuries in emergencies, disasters and accidents; and
  • patients undergoing advanced medical and surgical procedures.


The need for blood and blood products is universal, but access to safe blood and blood products varies greatly across and within countries.

In many countries, it is challenging for blood services to make sufficient blood and blood products available, while also ensuring its quality and safety.


Governments, national health authorities and national blood services must work together to:

  • ensure systems and infrastructure are in place to increase collection of blood from voluntary, regular unpaid donors;
  • establish and strengthen quality assurance systems for blood and blood products to ensure safe blood and blood products;
  • provide quality donor care;
  • promote and implement appropriate clinical use of blood; and
  • oversee the whole chain of blood transfusion.

Who can donate blood?

Most people can give blood if they are in good health. There are some basic requirements one  need to fulfill in order to become a blood donor.  Below are some basic eligibility guidelines:


You are aged between 18 and 65.

  • In some countries national legislation permits 16–17 year-olds to donate provided that they fulfil the physical and hematological criteria required and that appropriate consent is obtained.
  • In some countries, regular donors over the age of 65 may be accepted at the discretion of the responsible physician. The upper age limit in some countries are 60.


You weigh at least 50 kg.

  • In some countries, donors of whole blood donations should weigh at least 45 kg to donate 350 ml ± 10%.


You must be in good health at the time you donate.

You cannot donate if you have a cold, flu, sore throat, cold sore, stomach bug or any other infection.

If you have recently had a tattoo or body piercing you cannot donate for 6 months from the date of the procedure.  If the body piercing was performed by a registered health professional and any inflammation has settled completely, you can donate blood after 12 hours.

If you have visited the dentist for a minor procedure you must wait 24 hours before donating; for major work wait a month.

You must not donate blood If you do not meet the minimum haemoglobin level for blood donation:

  • A test will be administered at the donation site. In many countries, a haemoglobin level of not less than 12.0 g/dl for females and not less than 13.0 g/dl for males as the threshold.


Travel to areas where mosquito-borne infections are endemic, e.g. malaria, dengue and Zika virus infections, may result in a temporary deferral.

Many countries also implemented the policy to defer blood donors with a history of travel or residence for defined cumulative exposure periods in specified countries or areas, as a measure to reduce the risk of transmitting variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) by blood transfusion.


You must not give blood:

  • If you engaged in “at risk” sexual activity in the past 12 months
  • Individuals with behaviours below will be deferred permanently: 
  • Have ever had a positive test for HIV (AIDS virus)
  • Have ever injected recreational drugs.

In the national blood donor selection guidelines, there are more behavior eligibility criteria. Criteria could be different in different countries.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Following pregnancy, the deferral period should last as many months as the duration of the pregnancy.

It is not advisable to donate blood while breast-feeding. Following childbirth, the deferral period is at least 9 months (as for pregnancy) and until 3 months after your baby is significantly weaned (i.e. getting most of his/her nutrition from solids or bottle feeding).

Useful Links:

Link to the campaign website:

Link to WHO fact sheet on blood safety and availability:

Link to WHO video on the occasion:


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