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June 14 was World Blood Donor Day.
Every summer, 10-year-old Aditya's parents face a tough time trying to arrange two units of 'A negative' blood for their thalassemia-afflicted son as the student community, who constitute a major chunk of donors, goes on vacation. Most of Delhi's blood banks face a shortage particularly from April to August, as many of these rely on student donors.
"As schools and colleges shut for summer vacation, there is a sharp fall in blood donation camps during summer. The blood banks run out of blood and its components, right from the month of April till August," N.K. Bhatia, medical director of Jan Jagriti Blood Bank of Delhi, told IANS. "There is shortage of blood during summer. Though we keep in regular touch with the blood banks in and around Delhi and NCR region, every year during April to July we need to hunt for his (Aditya's) blood group A negative as we need fresh blood to create components and A negative is a very rare group," Seema Chopra, Aditya's mother laments.
Thalassemic patients between the age of one to five years need one unit of blood every month, between the ages of five to 10 - two units every month, between the ages of 10 to 15 - three units are needed every month, and an adult thalassemic needs four units of blood every month. "India requires 90 lakh units of blood every year, but the country manages to get only six lakh units. There is a perennial shortage of 25 lakh blood units. Out of six lakh units, 60 percent is donated by volunteers," Bhatia said.
Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) require 7 lakh to 8 lakh units of blood a year (around 40,000 units of blood each month) but get only 4 lakh to 5 lakh units.
"Over 75 percent of our donors are students in schools and colleges. With most educational institutions on holiday at this time, there is a huge shortage in supply. During summer if we target 100 volunteers, only 30 turn up," a senior official of the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) told IANS.
He also said that there is irrational use of blood in India.
"One unit of blood belonging to the same group can be used by three different patients, but we don't do that. Though there is a dearth of blood during summer, many blood banks waste human blood - at least 30 percent," Bhatia said.
Shortage of blood in summer gives rise to various illegal activities, such as illegal sale of blood, say health officials.
"There is illegal sale of blood in Delhi due to a sharp fall in blood donation camps during summers. Most low-level employees working in private and government blood banks are involved in this illegal sale. I don't think any doctor is involved in this," V.K. Monga, former health chairman of the recently trifurcated Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), said.
According to a consultant in transfusion medicine, the price of rare blood group types like A negative, O negative and AB negative, shoots up during summer.
"In private blood banks, the processed blood of the above category can go up from Rs.1,500 to Rs.5,000 per unit. The prescribed rate by the government is Rs.500 per unit," the consultant said.
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