Blood Stocks Drop to Critically Low Level

Stocks at the National Blood Transfusion Center (NBTC) are critically low and hundreds of units short of meeting demand, leading management at the center to publicly appeal for people to come forward and help restore the depleted reserves.

Dr. Hok Kim Cheng, the NBTC’s director, said Wednesday that the shortage was mainly due to donations from university students in Phnom Penh having dropped by up to 70 percent over the August holiday season.

“Now we have only 200 units in stock,” he said. “We are lacking blood. The shortage is because of the vacation season. At the same time, there is a high demand for blood.”

“Before, we would get about 1,000 units per month from university students, but this month we only got between 300 and 400 units,” Dr. Kim Cheng noted, adding that the bank desperately needs people with blood types O and B to come forward.

In June, hundreds of people—most of them young—donated blood as part of a nine-day countrywide drive ahead of the 10th World Blood Donor Day. At the time, Dr. Kim Cheng said the NBTC needs to maintain a supply of a minimum 700 units to meet demand.

“Every year we have a shortage during the vacation season, but this year the blood demand is particularly high because of the in­crease in the number of patients,” Dr. Cheng Kim said, adding that de­mand is coming from the victims of accidents and people suffering from cancer who require surgery.

“We have a hard time getting blood types O and B, because most of the people who are sick need those blood types,” he said.

Mardy Sek, the World Health Organization’s national professional officer for blood safety, said the pre- and post-election climates have also contributed to the drop in voluntary donations.

“Another reason is the uncertainty after the election,” he said. “Before the election, people were busy with election campaigns, so it was difficult to request blood donations, and after the election it has been unstable, so it’s difficult for people to find the time,” he said.

He said the rate of voluntary donations in Cambodia is about 30 percent, but that it needs to cover 100 percent of the population by 2020 to be in line with in­ternational standards.

“I hope next year we can meet a target of 50 percent of donations,” he said.

In the meantime, the NBTC is asking NGOs, tuk-tuk drivers and universities to encourage people to come and donate.

“We get about 20 to 30 units from people who come directly to the center,” he said of a typical day. Each unit is 350 milliliters of blood.

Around the country, the dip in donations is being felt too. In Kom­pong Cham province, there are only about 40 units of blood left in stock.

“On average, we need about 230 units” per month, said the provincial NBTC chief Ly Sovith.

“We are asking the patients’ relatives to donate blood, but not all blood is clean and we can only use about 80 out of every 100 units donated.”

In Battambang province, there is enough blood still left to satisfy a demand of up to 350 units per month, the provincial NBTC chief Ith Samnang said.

But in Banteay Meanchey province, the blood bank is 40 units short of the 100 units it typically needs every month, NBTC chief Has Momchandara said.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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