Unless you’re specifically traveling on an aid mission, there aren’t many of us who would travel somewhere with the singular goal of donating blood in a foreign land.
However, wherever you are this week, and perhaps especially if you’re traveling, you’ll consider donating blood. This Thursday, June 14th, is the World Health Organization’s World Blood Donor Day.
Like anything else, different countries have different procedures and customs when it comes to blood donation. The first is whether there is a “reward” for donating. In a lot of countries, including the U.S., donors will get little prizes such as key chains and t-shirts. That’s not as good a deal as in Italy, where workers get a paid vacation day on the day they give blood. In other countries – specifically Argentina, Brazil and Australia – it is illegal to receive any incentive for blood donation, whether it’s monetary or something else.
Around the world, there are restrictions about who is eligible to donate blood. For instance, people who’ve lived in the United Kingdom are prohibited from donating in many countries due to concerns relating to Mad Cow disease. People from various western African countries are restricted in some nations due to HIV-related concerns. If you’ve traveled to areas where malaria is found, it’s wise to wait at least 12 months before giving blood.
The WHO says that voluntary, unpaid donations are the safest source of blood and has recommended that member nations develop a non-monetary, regular volunteer system for blood donations.
Safe blood supplies are typically low in developing countries. The WHO reports that, on average, only 2.3 people per 1,000 are blood donors, well below the one percent needed to keep blood supplies where they need to be. On top of that, the WHO reports that there’s a lack of volunteer donors – as much as 50 percent of the blood collected in these countries comes from family/replacement and paid donors. That’s potentially problematic because the screening for these groups is often lax, greatly increasing the risk of transfusion-transmissible infections such as including HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis.
Nobody’s expecting you to spend your vacation giving blood in a developing country. But wherever you are Thursday, and especially if you’re traveling abroad, give blood.