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I am indeed very happy to be amongst you today, on the occasion of the 2009
World Blood Donor Day celebration.

Every year since 2004, the 14th of June has been set aside by the World Health
Assembly to recognise and thank those who donate blood for altruistic reasons.
This date has been chosen in honour of Karl Landsteiner who discovered the ABO
blood groups in 1907. He won a Nobel Prize for this scientific feat, which has made
blood transfusions a key part of modern medicine since 1930.

It is well documented that there is a higher risk of transmitting infections when


blood and blood products have been obtained from paid donors. It is for this
reason that the World Health Assembly passed resolution 28.72 of 1975, which
recommends that member states, including Nigeria, adopt a well-organised,
centrally coordinated blood transfusion service with quality systems based on
100% voluntary non-remunerated blood donation.

Testing of all units of blood donated is essential. However, testing alone is not
sufficient to prevent transmission of infectious agents through blood transfusions,
because of the possibility of laboratory errors, and the ´window periodµ of
infection.

Evidence from around the world demonstrates that patients who receive blood
from voluntary non-remunerated donors who give blood regularly, are at the lowest
risk of acquiring blood-borne infections through transfusion, because these donors
are motivated by altruism and have no reason to conceal any reasons why their
blood may be unsafe.

Millions of lives are saved each year through blood transfusion, and in many
countries, including Nigeria, many people still die due to an inadequate supply of
blood and blood products. This has a disproportionate impact on women as a
consequence of pregnancy-related complications, children due to malnutrition,
malaria and severe life-threatening anaemia, trauma victims, and most especially
the poor and disadvantaged.

One of the strategies for ensuring the safety, quality and availability of adequate
blood supplies is by the collection of blood from voluntary non-remunerated donors
only.

Around the world, millions of people owe their lives to individuals they will never
meet; people who donate their blood to help others. But millions still cannot get
safe blood when they need it. Today provides a unique opportunity to thank those
special people that have voluntarily given their blood to save lives. We can also
raise awareness about the need for more support from the good people of Nigeria
to enlist as voluntary non-remunerated blood donors.

The theme for this year·s World Blood Donor Day celebration is ´Achieving 100%
Non-Remunerated Donation of Blood and Blood Productsµ. It places more emphasis
on improving the safety and sufficiency of blood supply. As more and more
countries achieve the goal of 100% voluntary non-remunerated blood donation,
there is growing appreciation of the vital role of voluntary donors who give blood on
a regular basis. Not only are they the safest blood donors, they are also the
foundation of a sustainable National blood supply that is sufficient to meet the
needs of all patients requiring blood and blood components.

Through the commitment of the people and governments of both the United States
of America and Nigeria, there are currently 12 operational National Blood
Transfusion Centres spread over the 6 geo-political zones of Nigeria, up from the
demonstration Blood Centre pioneered by technical partners to the NBTS, Safe
Blood for Africa Foundation in 2004. It is anticipated that by the end of 2009, 5
additional centres would have been established, bringing the total to 17. The NBTS
is committed to establishing one National Blood centre in each of the 36 states by
2015, in the hope that the states will pick up the challenge and ensure that
modalities are put in place to make safe blood accessible to all communities within
their catchment areas. The successful implementation of a centrally coordinated
blood service through the political will of the various levels of government, will
replace the hitherto fragmented and unregulated blood service characterised by
paid of family replacement blood donors, the safety and quality of whose blood and
blood products is not assured.

The National Blood Transfusion Service has the responsibility of providing safe
blood and blood products available to all who may need it. The NBTS will also
regulate other blood banks and related service providers in the country as stated
in the National Blood Policy, in order to guarantee the quality of blood and blood
products from those facilities. Operational guidelines for blood transfusion
practice in Nigeria have also been developed, to ensure operational consistency at
all levels of the blood service.

Blood is a scarce and precious resource. In order to minimize its unnecessary


prescription and administration, the NBTS also promotes the appropriate clinical
use of blood and blood products, which also reduces the incidence of adverse
reactions. Hospitals are actively supported to establish Transfusion Committees.

As the demand for blood keeps increasing, Nigeria strives to make blood readily
available by increasing blood collection from voluntary non-remunerated blood
donors. In order to meet these needs, I call on all you special people gathered here
today to enlist as voluntary blood donors in support of our quest for community
participation. Regular donation of blood - three times per year for women, and four
for men ² will help us maintain a stable pool of safe blood units, and expand our
blood component programme to achieve self-sufficiency.

I will not conclude without acknowledging the significant role of the mass media in
our collective efforts at increasing and sustaining the pool of voluntary unpaid
donors. Ladies and gentlemen of the press, I implore you to create the necessary
awareness about voluntary blood donation so that those have been sceptical thus
far about voluntary unpaid blood donations would improve their knowledge and
therefore change their beliefs and behaviour, and become voluntary blood donors
and join those whose gift of blood continues to save lives.

Thank you for being present at this occasion. As you leave here, please pass on the
message, safe blood saves lives. Donate blood and save lives.

Thank you and may God bless us all.|