It was the year 2005 when the World Health Organisation established World Blood Donor Day.
The day is celebrated on 14 June, which coincides with the birthday of Karl Landsteiner, a naturalised American Austrian physician, biologist and physiologist who discovered blood groups and the Rh factor (a specific protein antigen on the surface of red blood cells) during his studies.
World Blood Donor Day is promoted every year not only by the WHO, the World Health Organisation, but also by the ISTB, the international association of specialists in transfusion medicine, the FIODS, the federation of voluntary blood donor organisations, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
World Blood Donor Day in 2021
The 2021 edition took place in Italy and was promoted by a collaboration between the Ministry of Health, the National Blood Centre (the technical-scientific coordination and control body of the transfusion system) and CIVIS, the acronym that brings together the main Italian donor associations (AVIS, FIDAS, FRATRES, CROCE ROSSA).
In 2021, the total number of Italian donors was 1.626.506, a slight decrease compared to 2019. In fact, new donors are about 355.000 (-2% compared to the year before). A growing percentage is that of donors registered with voluntary associations, i.e. 92%: of these 536.747 are women and 478.175 are young people aged between 18 and 35.
Blood donation in the world
Blood donation is a concrete gesture that has in itself a high value of solidarity. Creating a blood reserve to meet the needs of a community becomes a guarantee for the health of all, from which anyone can draw in times of need.
Moreover, donation is necessary because blood and blood components become a daily necessity and, in their absence, real tragedies can occur, or even the death of the patient involved. So-called blood transfusions, in fact, are used in many surgical procedures and in the treatment of many blood diseases.
During exceptional events, such as earthquakes or natural disasters, but also during simple man-made accidents, it is important to have a proper health management, including the means and tools to cope with them. Donating blood is also necessary for the proper performance of transplants and various surgeries, but also in first aid services, or in cancer and leukaemia treatments. It therefore becomes indispensable for saving people's lives, with no alternative, as there are no similar ones that can be reproduced in the laboratory to date.
Blood donation associations in Italy
According to the statistics of AVIS - Associazione Volontari Italiani del Sangue (Italian Blood Volunteers Association) - the figures are constantly improving compared to previous years. For example, there is talk of +4,6% for first donations and +23,4% for online accessions compared to the first quarter of 2021. In addition, there are 473.167 new potential donors in Italy and 38.443 cord blood units available for transplantation (numbers as of 30 April 2022).
AVIS is the largest voluntary blood association in Italy and contributes around 70% of the national need every year. It has around 3.300 locations with 1.300.000 members, totalling almost 2.000.000 units of donated blood and blood components.
In addition to this, there are many other voluntary blood donation associations; among the most important are CRI (www.cri.it), FIDAS (www.fidas.it), FRATRES (www.fratres.it), ADVPS - DONATORINATI (https://donatorinati.it) and ADISCO (www.adisco.it).
Methods and requirements for making a donation
As mentioned above, the act of donating can concretely save people in emergency conditions. However, not everyone has the necessary criteria and requirements to be able to donate blood.
First of all, a donor must be between 18 and 70 years old and have a minimum body weight of 50 kilograms. More specifically, his blood pressure must be approximately 110 - 180 mmHg systolic and his pulse must be 50/100 beats minimal/regular. In addition, haemoglobin must not be less than 12.5 g/dL for women and 13.5 d/dL for men.
Possessing a good state of health is also crucial: the donor must be a person who takes care of himself and his body through regular physical activity, a healthy and balanced diet, and must constantly be taking steps to improve his lifestyle day by day.
Donating blood is important. The donation of just one person can save as many as four lives. Moreover, it is a gesture of strong solidarity because it shows the love we feel for our neighbour. Unfortunately, there is still a lot to be done to ensure that blood centres always operate with the right amount and that it is ready to meet a constantly growing worldwide need.