The US, Europe and other high-HDI countries benefit from well-developed services for collecting, testing and processing blood and the participation of fellow citizens in blood donation programs.
But in many of the poorest countries of the world sufficient, safe blood is often unavailable. There are many challenges:
- Poor public knowledge about blood donation
- A lack of confidence in local health services
- Ties are tribal or familial and basic survival often a pressing challenge. There are often no cultural norm in giving for the benefit of strangers
- Few tools with which to manage communications
- A general lack of resources and training, affecting every aspect of recruitment, collection, processing, testing and distribution
- Most blood used in low-income countries is transfused as whole blood. Each donor helps only one patient compared to several when blood can be processed into components.
The interplay of these difficulties mean that – in particular - blood donors can be very difficult to recruit and retain, a key area of focus for GBF.
To try to make up the shortfall, health authorities often resort to coercing relatives of patients to donate which, in turn, can lead to the unsafe practice of paid donation. Where testing facilities are limited or non-existent, patients “lucky” enough to receive a life-saving transfusion can find their lives devastated by transmission of HIV, malaria, hepatitis or other chronic and potentially deadly diseases.