Position paper: Promoting safe and sustainable blood systems

People in all societies have a right to expect that any blood and blood products supplied to them be provided in a way that is safe, sustainable and supports their communities and their health systems.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) mission includes a commitment to ‘capacity building, sustainability and dignity’. Blood safety is critical for safe blood transfusion and health systems and the IFRC recognizes that ‘health security is a fundamental and indispensable prerequisite to global, national and individual development’.

Health security is reflected in the IFRC’s Global Agenda priorities to improve response to disasters and public health emergencies. These priorities are to:

  • increase health promotion actions in vulnerable communities

  • increase disease prevention and disaster risk reduction

  • increase HIV/AIDS programming and advocacy

The IFRC supports increased global health security by promoting the establishment of safe and sustainable blood systems, particularly through voluntary non-remunerated blood donation (VNRBD). It also advocates effective blood system risk management and governance.

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies operate in very different health and community contexts and the IFRC promotes equity, access, quality and safety of blood and blood products so that all citizens can have confidence in the security and integrity of their blood system. Blood security is involved in the delivery of three UN Millennium Development Goals:

  • Reduce child mortality

  • Improve maternal health

  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

VNRBD has been viewed as critical to the international health effort since the 1975 World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution called for member states to ‘promote the development of national blood services based on voluntary non-remunerated donation of blood’, a principle reasserted by the WHA in 2005.

In 2003 the Santiago de Chile Commitment by National Societies of the Red Cross of the Americas identified the promotion of VNRBD as among the actions ‘possessing the greatest potential for increasing the impact on public health and serve to integrate the actions of the National Societies’.

As of 2008, blood supply based on 100 per cent VNRBD has been achieved in 54 countries, including some developing countries.

The IFRC’s Global Advisory Panel on Blood (GAP) provides specific advice on corporate governance and risk management structures in blood services as well as advocating best practice, resource mobilization and knowledge exchange among member National Societies’ blood services.

Through National Societies and in association with the World Health Organization (WHO), the IFRC contributes to international efforts to promote safe and sustainable blood systems that foster community health and well-being. The advocacy, leadership and guidance of the IFRC can assist countries in their progress towards achieving health security.

Our position

The IFRC and its member National Societies endeavour to:

  • support and advocate the principle of voluntary non-remunerated blood donation (VNRBD)

  • recognize that the health and well-being of the donor and recipient are paramount

  • promote safe, sustainable and equitable practices in the development and administration of blood programmes

  • support the goal of national self-sufficiency, including ensuring adequate supply of blood and blood products to meet domestic health needs

  • advocate a balanced decision-making approach to blood safety

  • promote and uphold high ethical standards, integrity and accountability, consistent with the Code of Ethics for blood donation and transfusion of the International Society of Blood Transfusion, as adopted by the International Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 1981, and supported by the WHO

  • respect the confidentiality and privacy of all information relating to blood donors and blood donation

  • provide support to other National Societies and blood services in achieving safe and sustainable blood systems