Last year there were reports in the local press that the UAE was suffering a shortage in donor blood, following a surge in the population and the resulting increase in blood defects. While Dr May Raouf, medical director for Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre, claims this is no longer the case, the fact remains that any country is always in need of regular blood donations.
Dr Raouf explains that the Sharjah centre conducts regular blood drives throughout the week, visiting offices and academic institutions across the emirates. Yet many expats still don’t know how or where they can donate. The biggest hindrance seems to be finding the time, with most mobile blood drives taking place during the working week.
This conundrum was first addressed back in January 2010, when Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre and Volunteer in Dubai organised a blood drive at Ibn Battuta Mall. According to Volunteer in Dubai founder Lola Lopez, 347 people showed up to donate blood, thanks to publicity from Facebook and email blasts.
Despite this success, external difficulties meant the organisers were unable to continue the blood drive. However, these issues have since been resolved and the Sharjah Blood Bank, Ibn Battuta and Emirates NBD Bank are set to hold blood drives on the first Saturday of the month throughout the coming year, with the first taking place this weekend (October 2).
‘We were contacted by Volunteer in Dubai,’ says Dr Raouf. ‘At first they requested the drive to be on Friday, but this is difficult because of prayer time, and Friday is the only day for our staff to take holiday. We then suggested making it a Saturday, because our staff work that day and many people still come to the mall.’
Volunteers will be posted around the mall to draw attention to the bus outside, as well as to expedite the donation process. They will help with the requisite administrative procedures, such as completing forms and weighing the donors. Meanwhile, trained medical experts from Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre will carry out the procedure in the well-equipped blood bus. ‘The bus has four beds, a small lab, an interview room, and a rest area where donors are served juice, fruit and biscuits after they give blood,’ enthuses Dr Raouf. ‘Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre has two vehicles and is getting a third bus at the end of this month. All our buses are from the USA, and are specifically designed as blood donation units.’
So far, there are 12 confirmed dates for the Blood Donor UAE donation drives, which organisers hope to add to if the response is positive. To help raise awareness for the cause, Volunteer in Dubai has set up a website, www.blood-donor.ae (which at time of writing is still under development), that allows people to register their details for two purposes: to be notified of upcoming donation drives, and to help in emergency situations. ‘When urgent cases in hospitals arise and a specific blood type is required immediately, we can pull up our list of members and filter them based on their blood group and their eligibility to donate,’ explains Lopez.
While this programme will make giving blood easier for many people, it is also an important educational exercise. Dr Raouf says it will ‘raise awareness that giving blood is a humanitarian act. Many of us will need a blood transfusion at some point in our lives, and it is important for people to know this.’
The first blood drive is on October 2 at 4pm outside Ibn Battuta Mall, then on the first Saturday of every month for the next 12 months. For details, email email@example.com or see www.blood-donor.ae