The National Blood Transfusion Center (NBTC) on Friday took Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to call on students to “show love” by donating blood, a drive that collected 400 units of blood.
“On [Valentine’s Day] we are all willing to show our love by donating blood to help victims who need blood,” Hok Kimcheng, NBTC director, said on Friday during the national blood drive at Preah Ang Duong Hospital in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district.
Last year, the NBTC received about 50,353 donations, but as most Cambodians are still reluctant to give blood, usually due to the belief that it weakens the body, only 35 percent of these donations are from simple volunteers.
The remaining 65 percent, Dr. Kimcheng said, had to be provided by direct family members.
“On average, we need about 80 to 100 units per day in Phnom Penh and about 150 units in the countryside…. We can only guarantee to have enough blood… because relatives also donate,” he said.
On an average day, the NBTC only receives between 20 and 30 volunteer donors, while on Friday, almost 400 students came to give blood.
The World Health Organization recommends that 100 percent of blood transfusions stem from volunteers, a goal Cambodia hopes to reach by 2020.
Raising awareness among the country’s youth, Dr. Kimcheng said, was particularly important.
“I plead to youths to donate blood and volunteer more often, not only on February 14, but please do so regularly,” he said.
Chhorn Ratha, a third year student at the Royal University of Law and Economics, said that he had come to Preah Ang Duong hospital to help save lives.
“This is a good humanitarian reason to help each other,” he said.
Another student, 21-year-old Dy Sarkden, said that Valentine’s Day was the perfect opportunity to donate blood.
“I think that because today is Valentine’s Day, I can give my love to other people by donating blood and helping patients,” Mr. Sarkden said, adding that he hoped to give a good example for other young people.
Although the government has repeatedly criticized the arrival of Valentine’s Day as a commercial Western holiday overly focused on romance, CPP lawmaker Lor Kheng said that the day could be used to educate youths about the importance of blood donations.
“We are changing this day of love to a day where the youth join to donate blood,” said Mr. Kheng, who is also the vice director of the Phnom Penh branch of the Cambodian Red Cross.
“Our youth who donate blood are heroes…. Please, all of you, open your hearts and donate blood to save people’s lives,” he said.