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Experts urge volunteers to donate blood as thalassaemia patients face shortage

By M. Waqar Bhatti
March 22, 2020

Welfare organisations working for the treatment of thalassaemia patients in Karachi have warned that due to a partial lockdown and scare of coronavirus, blood banks and hospitals are facing an extreme shortage of blood, putting lives of thousands of children suffering from thalassaemia at risk, and urged the people, especially youngsters, to come forward and donate blood.

“Hospitals and blood banks are facing an acute shortage of blood after people preferred to remain indoors due to scare of coronavirus over the last few weeks. There are thousands of children suffering from thalassaemia, who need regular blood transfusion, and due to the shortage, their lives are at risk now,” said Dr Saqib Ansari, general secretary of the Omair-Sana Thalassaemia Foundation, which works for the treatment of thalassaemia patients in Pakistan.

Accompanied by another hematologist, Dr Rahat Hussain, the renowned blood diseases expert said every month over one hundred fifty thousand bags to two hundred thousand bags of blood are required in Pakistan, which are mostly used for the thalassaemia patients, victims of emergencies, during surgeries and other emergencies, but due to the scare of coronavirus, people are abstaining from donating blood, which has become a serious issue.

Dr Ansari maintained that there were thousands of children suffering from thalassaemia, who required blood transfusion once or twice a month, but due to the shortage of blood, one bag was being transfused to two children suffering from thalassaemia. He added that at the moment, the blood level of children with thalassaemia had dropped to 2.5 which should ideally be above 10 to 12.

“Children from entire Sindh and Balochistan are now moving towards Karachi and visiting various organisations that treat thalassaemia, including Omair-Sana Foundation, Sailani Welfare and others in search of blood after people stopped donating blood. If blood donations are not resumed immediately, thousands of children with thalassaemia would ultimately die,” he warned.

“Blood donated by people doesn’t last over 30 days. We collected blood every day for children with thalassaemia as we need around one hundred and fifty thousand to two hundred thousand bottles of blood every month,” Dr Saqib Ansari said and appealed to youngsters sitting at their homes to visit the nearest blood bank and donate their blood so that lives could be saved.

He said healthy people should take all the precautionary measures to protect themselves and their families from coronavirus, but they should also care for others. He added that youngsters who were not going anywhere due to self-isolation instructions should visit the blood banks or the Omair Sana Thalassaemia Foundation in Yasinabad and donate blood to save others’ lives.

“On the other hand, we also have the facility to take blood from your residence too. Just give us a call at 0345-8888103 and our team would reach your residence. They are fully trained in infection prevention and control and will draw blood as early as possible and leave your place,” Dr Ansari added.

To a query, he said they had a complete questionnaire that helped their technicians and the team to ascertain if a person was healthy or not. He added that in case a person was not well, their team would not acquire blood from that person.