Voluntary blood donors helping to save lives across the Pacific
Wednesday June 13, 2012
Solomon Islands celebrities are pitching in to help boost voluntary unpaid blood donations, essential for saving lives and ensuring the country has a safe and sustainable blood supply.
Melissa Bencik, sent as an Australian Volunteer for International Development (AVID), has been working with Solomon Islands Red Cross for the last year on a youth peer education project. The project aims to increase the number of young voluntary blood donors and turn occasional donors into lifetime donors. In the Solomon Islands 45% of blood transfused is used for obstetric procedures, but there is only enough blood to meet 39% of requests.
The Honiara-based volunteer and her colleagues recently enlisted their first celebrity blood donor, a well-known Solomon Islands' musician Jah Boy, and plans are in the pipeline to sign up several local sports stars. 'It is a first. It's been fantastic and has really helped to give an extra boost to community awareness.'
Ms Bencik said her work involved talking to school groups, organising community blood drives, and developing a bring a friend donation program.
'We are also now finding that work places are inviting us to come to them to do blood drives, which is a big shift. We've been trying to put the onus onto the community, that it's their responsibility to help save lives through voluntary blood donation, not Red Cross' or the Ministry of Health's.'
This Thursday, 14 June, is World Blood Donor Day, which is about helping to boost worldwide awareness of the importance of voluntary blood donation. Australian Red Cross International Humanitarian Blood Advisor Neil Waters said a safe blood supply, and enough of it, is vital for saving lives, improving health and quality of life.
'Across the Pacific there are few people who give blood voluntarily and without financial reward - most donations come from family members or people who are paid to give,' he said. 'This means most Pacific countries don't have a safe and reliable blood supply, which tragically leads to unnecessary deaths.
'The safety and integrity of a nation's blood supply is essential for the security of its health system. It is also closely linked to the three UN Millennium Development Goals which focus on reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.'
The Australian Volunteers for International Development program is an Australian Government, AusAID initiative, of which Australian Red Cross is a core partner. For further details about the program and current international volunteering opportunities, visit www.ausaid.gov.au/volunteer.
Australian Red Cross relies on committed volunteers and donors to carry out its work around the world. You can make a donation to support that work by visiting www.redcross.org.au or calling 1800 811 700.
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