The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies welcomes this opportunity to commend the World Health Assembly to have WBDD designated as an annual event.
There is much talk about public health interventions that successfully mobilize civil society and bring sustainable public health improvements; here we have a perfect example, where WHO can take a positive step in a meaningful way to ensure existing solid partnerships in civil society become acceptable models to assist health improvements across the world.
As a key partner in the World Blood Donor Day initiative, the International Federation sees the purpose of this event having many far-reaching objectives, all linked directly with the building of true partnerships with civil society at the international, national and local levels. And with strengthening partnerships with Ministries of Health and government agencies - vital partnerships for National Societies in view of their role as the auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field.
In this case, however, we are recognising and encouraging what must be the most trusting partnership of all.
It is a partnership that results with someone holding out his/her arm to give their own blood, almost always to people - to patients - they will never meet, but for whom this gesture is life-saving. It is this area of trust and public confidence that is crucial to a successful national blood programme.
But it is only through the provision of a quality blood service, that a public can grow in confidence in its blood services and through that confidence support it with regular blood donations.
World Blood Donor Day is also therefore a reminder about the importance of resources needed to help address specific responsibilities of blood programmes. Resources are needed both to ensure the quality of the blood for patients, and to ensure that the programme has the public credibility needed if voluntary blood donors are to trust in the blood programme.
Many of our National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have a great deal of experience in blood issues, both relating to the needs of patients and the expectations of donors.
This experience teaches us that these resources questions cannot be avoided, anywhere. We know that many countries have struggling and under-funded health services, but we also know from experience that it is realistic to expect basic quality control in every blood service.
Increasingly this means the provision of a service where appropriate care of the voluntary donor is afforded, since we know the attitude and welcome of the staff can set the stage for a positive encounter and increase the likelihood of a one-time donor becoming a regular donor.
Finally, the International Federation and its National Society members vividly recall to mind the launching of World Blood Donor Day in Johannesburg last year, and in particular the involvement of young donors, members of so-called Club 25 Programmes.
Club 25 programmes appear to be a most economical model in terms of public health care. In Johannesburg the approximate age of Club 25 members was 18-25 years and they had committed to two or three donations per year with an aim of giving 20 donations by the end of their 25th year.
Club 25 members know they must lead safe and healthy lifestyles in order to meet the criteria for donor eligibility. The Blood Service plays an important role in providing the young donors with HIV/AIDS education materials and thus the Club 25 members become HIV/AIDS peer educators; their role becomes even more significant than saving lives by blood donation - they now also play a vital role in health promotion as well.
World Blood Donor Day is an excellent opportunity for governments, policymakers and blood programmes to congratulate all young blood donors, so many of whom are not just regular donors but now really leaders in public health education by playing a key role as HIV/AIDS peer educators by promoting healthy life-styles.
WBDD 2004 produced a very favourable response. It has seen a growing interest around the world in development of more Club 25 Programmes. These programmes, and others, are already a means of both providing safer blood and encouraging these young donors to take healthy lifestyle messages into their communities.
On this basis, we commend the World Health Assembly proposal to have WBDD designated as an annual event, and look forward to work between National Societies and their partners in government and civil society building stronger programmes to encourage blood donors and high quality blood services.