Today we celebrate World Blood Donor Day – a day devoted to thanking those among us who help save lives through blood donations and to raising awareness of the need for safe and secure blood supplies. Since 2005, World Health Organization member states have designated June 14th, also the birthday of Karl Landsteiner, an Austrian biologist and physician who created the A-B-O blood group system, as World Blood Donor Day.
Blood transfusion is an essential part of today’s medical care. A safe, sustainable blood supply system is critically important to the health care system of every country. But a blood supply program is an expensive and time consuming proposition for any government. And of course, it depends on a large, reliable pool of healthy blood donors.
In many countries the majority of blood donors are volunteers who give blood as an act of charity. But in poorer countries, established supplies are often limited and donors only give blood when family or friends need a transfusion. To ensure a sustained and readily available blood supply in such environments, developing additional volunteer donor pools is needed.
The United States Government supports the World Health Organization’s efforts to assure global access to safe blood transfusion. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief direct assistance continues to be provided to more than a dozen countries to advance development of their national blood systems. Additionally, the United States Food and Drug Administration supports the work of the World Health Organization in developing guidelines that are used to help countries establish adequate and sustainable blood systems.
Through its annual honoring of blood donors, the World Health Organization highlights those who make a tangible personal commitment to helping another person in need. As the Roman poet Virgil wrote, “The greatest wealth is health” and through their donations blood donors everywhere contribute in a personal and meaningful way to the creation of sustainable, safe, healthy blood supplies that save lives.