Saving lives every day in Haiti through blood donation

Published: 24 June 2014 9:43 CET

By Lorraine Taggart, IFRC

Since the creation of the Haitian Red Cross National Society in 1932, there has always been a strong focus on promoting voluntary blood donation, and the significance of the life-saving act of giving blood has been emphasised at every opportunity. World Blood Donor Day, celebrated on 14 June,  is the perfect occasion to put the spotlight on this simple yet important gesture.  

To commemorate this day, the Haiti Red Cross Society organized an event to raise awareness about blood donation and at the same time pay tribute to those who have donated blood over the years as well as those who have worked in the society’s National Blood Transfusion Centre.

Cesar Luberisse has donated blood 30 times over the last 25 years.
Cesar Luberisse has been donating blood regularly since 1989. In 25 years he has given blood more than 30 times to help save lives.

Among the awardees honoured on  14 June is Cesar Luberisse, who has donated blood regularly for 25 years.

“I decided to  start donating blood because I wanted to help save lives. So, I made my first donation and I felt real good about it. I feel that what I am doing is showing the love that I have for my country.”

Cesar began donating blood in 1987 and has donated over 30 times.

“I would encourage all young people across the country to take the initiative and donate blood,” he says.

A national mandate

In 1986, the Haitian state entrusted the national mandate of maintaining a well-stocked and secure blood bank to the Haitian Red Cross. Later, in 2006 a special group called Club 25 was created to inspire young people to donate blood. The overarching idea was to sensitize youths about their own sexual and reproductive health, in order to ensure a healthy and hearty pool of blood donors free from sexually-transmitted infections.

Before the 2010 earthquake, 65 per cent of the blood distributed in Haiti was supplied by some 20,000 Haitian Red Cross volunteer blood donors. Much of the blood used in transfusions to help people injured in the earthquake was supplied by the young donors of Club 25. Today, Club 25 has over 4,000 members who give blood regularly – one pouch every four months for men, and one every three months for women.

Giving blood for special needs

This year's campaign, ‘Safe blood for saving mothers’, underscored the needs of a special group of people, namely pregnant women. Every day, about 800 women worldwide die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications and lack of access to blood. Severe bleeding during delivery and after childbirth is a major cause of mortality, morbidity and long-term disability. The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness about why timely access to safe blood and blood products is essential for all countries as part of a comprehensive approach to prevent maternal deaths especially in a poor country such as Haiti where according to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities the maternal mortality rate is 300 out of every 100,000 births.

Replenishing blood stocks – a continuous challenge

At the end of April 2014, the National Blood Transfusion Centre launched an appeal on the radio and via SMS for people to donate blood, in order to compensate for the limited stocks of donated blood available. With a dwindling  supply and few regular donors it was important to mobilise the population, particularly on Blood Donor Day, to donate more blood to help save more lives.

Radyo KwaWouj, the bi-weekly radio show hosted by the Haiti Red Cross Society, broadcast a special episode on blood donation to let people know the importance of donating blood and how it can save the lives of others.

Wilfrid Baptiste has worked at the National Blood Transfusion Centre of the Haitian Red Cross for over 30 years. His distinguished service was recognised during the ceremony held on the occasion of World Blood Donor Day.
Wilfrid Baptiste has worked at the National Blood Transfusion Centre of the Haitian Red Cross for over 30 years. His distinguished service was recognised during the ceremony held on the occasion of World Blood Donor Day.

From January to March 2014 a total of 522 pouches of blood were donated through the network of 31 blood transfusion centres and outposts strategically located throughout the country. However, this is simply not enough to meet the needs of a population of over 10 million people.

“All Haitians should support the actions of the National Society to achieve the target of 100 per cent voluntary unpaid donations and allow our blood transfusion centres to continue to work on the collection and distribution of  safe and top-quality blood products,” said Dr. Guiteau Jean Pierre, President of the society, in his speech during the event.  

Although World Blood Donor Day is celebrated just once a year, the Red Cross, and its partners, continue to mobilize the population on the importance of blood donation all year through.