Blood Donations Climb, But Still Lag Far Behind Neighbors

Blood donations ticked up 22 percent last year, but still lagged behind other countries in the region, Health Ministry officials said on Wednesday, faulting provincial health officials for the lack of donations outside of Phnom Penh.

“Please, directors of provincial health departments, put more effort into helping with blood donations,” said Sok Pheng, a Health Ministry secretary of state, at the ministry’s 38th National Congress on Wednesday.

The ministry received 65,197 units—about 475 ml each—of donated blood last year, up 22 percent from the year before, with two-thirds of the donations coming from the capital.

The donations met only a third of Cambodia’s need for blood, according to Mr. Pheng, who contrasted Cambodia to Laos, which received 88 percent, and Vietnam, at 96 percent.

The World Health Organization recommends that 100 percent of blood transfusions come from volunteers—as opposed to being requested from patients’ families once they are needed—a goal Cambodia hopes to reach by 2020 by countering a widespread belief that giving blood weakens the body.

All but four of Cambodia’s provinces now have transfusion centers capable of accepting donations, but challenges remain.

“The directors of the provincial health department don’t care about blood donations, as they rely on donations from victims’ families,” Mr. Pheng said.

Kouy Bunthoeun, director of the health department in Kandal province, said on Wednesday that his province had been left in the lurch without its own transfusion center. Patients are told to go to the National Blood Transfusion Center in Phnom Penh instead, he said.

The province accepts donations at the provincial health department, where money and supplies are scarce, he said. He said better facilities would encourage more donations.

Youk Sambath, director of the ministry’s general department of finance, said that even the facility in Phnom Penh—the National Blood Transfusion Center—was understaffed after resignations and not operating efficiently.

The center’s director, Hok Kimcheng, however, said that Ms. Sambath was not speaking “officially.”

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