Accessibility links

Breaking News

Blood Bank Supply Declines As Donations Dry Up Due to COVID-19

FILE: A blood donor grabs a sponge ball to make the blood flow during a “Give Blood, Give Love” event at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on 14 February 2015. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

Cambodia is facing a shortage in its blood banks according to an official at the National Blood Transfusion Center, as donations have decreased because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Ly Sovith, deputy director at the National Blood Transfusion Center, said on Monday that blood donations are supplying less than 20 percent of all blood at the center. A majority of blood provided by the center comes from replacement donations, where a patient’s family member, relative or friend provide blood.

But the novel coronavirus pandemic had reduced the number of people donating blood through campaigns and drives at government and private institutions. While people have been concerned to go to hospital to donate blood due the outbreak, the center had also stopped donations for a short duration during the peak of Cambodia’s coronavirus case count.

“It’s because we could not organize blood drives at ministries, institutions, and private companies [as before],” Ly Sovith said.

National Blood Transfusion Center normally receives blood donations from voluntary non-remunerated donors personally or through regular blood drives organized by public and private institutions, organizations, factories, and so on.

In late 2019, just before COVID-19 outbreak, the center received around 250 bags of blood daily from voluntary donation, which account for 20 percent of the supply. The voluntary donations reached a peak of 31 percent in 2016, according to the World Health Organizations, at which point the center hoped to increase this to at least 50 percent – about 600 packs of blood daily –by 2020, according to Ly Sovith.

“With the current situation, we can’t wait any longer,” he said.

For a patient in immediate need of blood, technically, they can receive blood bags by showing a blood donation card from a volunteer who had previously donated blood, or call for family members, relatives, or friends to help donate blood to the center.

VOA Khmer spoke to Sok Sopheach whose father is in need of blood and is being treated for lung disease at a hospital in Phnom Penh. In January, she used a friend’s blood donation card to get blood for her father’s treatment.

However last month, her father needed additional blood but officials at the National Blood Transfusion Center said they could not use the same donation cards because there was a shortage of blood.

“Staff at the center said we could use the card previously, but now we cannot use it, because of the shortage of blood in stock,” Sok Sopheach said, adding that the staff at the National Blood Transfusion Center advised her to call for volunteers from her family or friends to donate blood.

It took a lot of convincing and complaining for the center to agree to give her father the blood, she said.

“It could be that blood at the center is out of stock, but there has to be a clear explanation for how to get blood. Because it can be frustrating for [blood donation] cardholders.”