With the national lockdown, blood banks in some cities are running dry. This is specially dangerous for the two lakh thalassemia patients in the country who need a blood transfusion every fortnight or so to lead a normal life.
In desperation, the Thalassemia Patients Advocacy Group (TPAG), has taken to cold calls, social media and donor platforms like Friends2Support and Blood Donors India to urge people to come forward and donate blood.
“We are calling people by getting references from friends and colleagues, asking them to go to blood banks to donate blood. We are helping them get donor pass and telling them that it will be a life threatening situation for us if they if they don’t donate blood,” says Anubha Taneja-Mukherjee, a thalassemia patient and a member of TPAG.
The ministry of health and family welfare has also asked the state governments to allow blood donation camps while maintaining the norms of social distancing. However, medical practitioners say that since offices and colleges are closed, it is very difficult to organise camps.
According to the National Blood Transfusion Council there are 2023 blood banks in India which receive 78 per cent blood from voluntary donors. "We need to tell people that blood donation will not infect them with Covid19 if we follow all the other precautions," says Dr Vanshree Singh, director, India Red Cross Society.
She says IRCS blood banks have been supplying blood to hospitals and as of now their reserve is satisfactory.
“Yes, there is a 50 per cent drop in the collection but requirement has also gone down as many planned surgeries are on hold. But a big effort is needed to maintain the balance in the coming days,” says Singh
The thalassemia group which is in constant touch with patients through various means has found that the blood shortage is more Delhi while it is sufficient in Maharashtra and West Bengal. “The Delhi government's online system has refused to issue to e-passes to blood donors. The police and administration need to be sensitised,” says Mukherjee. Steps like blood banks collaborating with app-based taxi service would be a great help, she says. A separate nursing home to collect blood, away from a hospital treating Covid-19 patients will also encourage donors to come forward.
To donate blood you can call at the Red Cross numbers, 98182-28394 and 011-23711551 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org