The Department of Health (DOH) intensifies its advocacy on voluntary blood donation to provide and allocate safe blood supply, sustaining its adequacy and ensuring accessibility. Saving the lives of millions of Filipinos in need of blood transfusion, the State through the Republic Act 7719, also known as the National Blood Services Act of 1994 promotes voluntary blood donation.  This is parallel with upgraded blood service facilities and organization into a National Blood Transfusion Service Network for rational provision of adequate and safe blood supply in the country.

However, the task of recruiting voluntary blood donors remains one of the major challenges. Thus, strengthening multi-sectoral collaboration, creating opportunities to donate and raising public awareness on the need for safe blood and blood products are fundamental keys to achieve a community with committed blood donors that tender voluntary non-remunerated year-round blood donation.

July of every year is declared as the “Blood Donors Month” by former President Fidel V. Ramos per Proclamation No. 1021 signed on June 9, 1997. The whole month of July encourages all men and women to the altruistic cause of blood donation and the time to acknowledge our blood donors of their noble act of saving lives through their gift of blood.

This year, the DOH through the National Voluntary Blood Services Program (NVBSP) with the DOH Regional Office III, spearhead the kick-off activity for the month-long celebration. The focus of this year’s campaign is centered on the importance of the blood supply in emergency settings like natural disasters as well as man-made catastrophes (e.g. road accidents and armed conflicts). Emergencies trigger increased demand for blood supply. To prevent a significant draw down of blood supply, a well-organized blood service is necessary to meet blood necessities especially in times of crisis.

The celebration of Blood Donors Month in the Philippines is also inspired by the annual celebration of World Blood Donor Day every 14th of June.  The slogan for the 2017 campaign is: “What can you do? Give blood. Give now. Give often”, a feedback to the natural human response during emergency situation is “What can I do? How can I help?”

“I call for every Filipino to take the step of helping others in emergency situations, by giving the priceless gift of blood. Let us give blood regularly to have an adequate blood stock before a crisis arises.” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial stated.

The goal is to collect 1 million blood units annually for enough blood and blood products to patients in need of blood transfusion.  In 2016, the partial total blood units collected was 930,000 and a gap of about 70,000 blood units.  82% blood units came from voluntary blood donation, 17% from replacement donation and 1% from paid donation. We aim to get the 1 million blood units collected by 2017 and meet the global target of 100% Voluntary Non-remunerated Blood Donation by 2020.

This campaign also highlights to boost consciousness to all potential female volunteer blood donors to donate blood.  Based on the national data, only 23% of women are donating blood from the total blood units collected.  The NVBSP will launch a 30-seconder advertisement focusing on women donating blood led by Miss Earth winners. This is to empower women to be part of our goal towards a blood-sufficient nation.

Strengthening the existing Blood Services Networks and improving the delivery of safe, adequate, accessible and affordable blood supply to health facilities are essential components in the healthcare delivery system.  Safe blood supply is one of the five critical parameters of functionality of these health facilities providing basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care services for the rapid reduction of Maternal Mortality Ratio to attain the Philippine Government’s commitment for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Further, the NVBSP needs to fast track, intensify and strengthen the implementation of Donor Recruitment, Retention and Care to include Healthy Lifestyle and HIV Prevention, Advocacy and Public Education, Teaching of Voluntary Blood Donation in Schools,  Appropriate Use of Blood and in meeting the global target of 100% Voluntary Blood Donation in 2020.

“Let us achieve a substantial supply of blood across the country, increasing blood safety and availability. The support of all sectors is imperative in establishing blood donation programs in order to respond promptly to the outpouring blood demand during emergencies. Let us donate blood regularly and voluntarily, make blood donation a way of life” Secretary Ubial concluded.