The Australian Red Cross says a reliable blood supply is needed to try to cut the number of people who die each year because there is a shortage of blood for use in hospitals.
A similar campaign in Cook Islands has succeeded in significantly increasing volunteer blood donations and improving screening, processing, storing and distributing blood.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Neil Waters, Red Cross Australia
WATERS: Well Australian Red Cross has a number of programs in the Pacific. We supply training to people in the Pacific, we provide planning support and community education programs around blood donations, safe blood supplies across the Pacific.
COUTTS: If we could just look at that, how short is the blood donor issue, is it the blood donors that are not turning up or there's just been a run on blood that's causing the issue?
WATERS: There's a chronic shortage of blood and it's a global problem, but it is an acute problem in the Pacific. In the Pacific there's not a strong culture of voluntary blood donation. There's only one country in the Pacific, the Cook Islands, that has a culture of 100 per cent blood donation. And so World Blood Donor Day is an opportunity to celebrate those volunteer blood donors and to encourage others to become volunteer blood donors and give a gift for life.
COUTTS: So how are you going about it in the Pacific, you're going through a number of different countries and how are you campaigning, how is the message being put out in the Pacific that more volunteer blood donors are required?
WATERS: Well Australian Red Cross is supporting a number of activities in the Pacific. We've made some small grants available through AusAid to Red Cross societies in the Pacific to celebrate World Blood Donor Day, and they focus on thanking blood donors, promoting voluntary unpaid blood donations and encouraging governments to commit to achieving self-sufficiency through voluntary blood donations.
COUTTS: Well how many more blood donors do you actually need to make sure that you have enough blood in the Pacific?
WATERS: Many, many more blood donors, there's a critical shortage of blood in the Pacific.
COUTTS: How much of an issue is the fact that you need to keep blood refrigerated and that is an issue in the Pacific because they have constant power outages and they have weather issues as well, how much does that play into the lack of blood supplies?
WATERS: Yes blood only has a limited shelf life but unfortunately in the Pacific it's not often that blood actually gets old enough to expire, most of it is used as soon as it's collected.
COUTTS: Now you mentioned the Cook Islands a little moment ago and are they self-sufficient now in providing their own blood for stocks?
WATERS: They do, they've been the poster child of the Pacific, they made a decision in about 2005 to become totally reliant on volunteer blood donors and they achieved that over about five years. And since about 2009 they've been 100 per cent volunteer blood donor reliant and the number of blood donors and the number of blood donations they collect has steadily increased each year.
COUTTS: And along with the support, improvement in systems, the screening and processing and storing and distribution?
WATERS: Yes the storage and distribution of blood is a critical factor in ensuring the safety of the blood supply. And ministries of health across the Pacific are always constantly improving the way that they address those aspects of the blood supply.
COUTTS: Malaria, dengue fever, hepatitis b, c, HIV, STIs are all issues right across the Pacific. How much does that interfere with the collection of blood in the Pacific?
WATERS: Well when we collect blood from volunteer blood donors they are the cornerstone of a safe sufficient blood supply. Volunteer blood donors have lower rates of transfusion transmissible infections in their blood and therefore they're the preferred blood donors.
COUTTS: So what's your message today on World Donor Day to those listening across the Pacific this morning?
WATERS: Thank you very much to all of those people who've donated their blood free and altruistically for people in need. And we encourage you, more people to become volunteer blood donors.