DUBAI // Medics have appealed to people to come forward to donate blood owing to a fall in units collected over Ramadan, with the slide expected to continue throughout the summer.

Abu Dhabi Blood Bank covers 12 government and 25 private hospitals and trauma centres, and reports a 20 to 30 per cent drop in collection this Ramadan, from the average 120 to 140 units collected a day.

The appeal is because “in Ramadan patients still need blood and blood components to be treated”, said Dr Naima Oumeziane, medical director of Abu Dhabi Blood Bank.

“When people are fasting it is difficult for them to donate even if we are open until 2am.

“People need to understand that a patient with leukaemia still has leukaemia, there are chronic patients with thalassaemia, sickle cell, mothers during delivery who may be at risk and road accident patients, so we need support,” Dr Oumeziane said.

The blood bank, which is operated by Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, a Seha hospital, intensified its efforts two weeks before Ramadan by conducting three drives a day.

Most people, however, are unaware that blood has a shelf life.

“Blood has a shelf life of 42 days and for platelets it is only five days. What we collected before Ramadan will expire, so we need donations continuously,” Dr Oumeziane said.

Platelet collections are vital and needed by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Since platelets are blood cells critical to stop bleeding, these are also used in life-threatening bleeding stiuations, post-surgery or after accidents.

This typically takes from 45 minutes to an hour to collect compared with a regular blood donation completed in 15 minutes.

In Dubai , a similar appeal went out from Dr May Raouf, head of the Dubai Blood Donation Centre.

“One donor can save three to four lives. We encourage every person whose medical condition is suitable to donate and help save lives,” she said.

“We are aware of the possibilities of a shortage and work to prevent it. We make people understand that we cannot collect now for the summer months. We talk about how people need to keep coming in to donate.”

The Dubai centre, located in Latifa Hospital, collects 49,000 units a year, of which 36 per cent is for the Thalassaemia Centre, 15 per cent for private hospitals in the emirate and the rest for government or Dubai Health Authority hospitals.

While the daily units collected usually range between 160 and 220, this drops to an average 140 units a day during Ramadan.

The centre runs three campaigns a day during Ramadan to boost collections and conducts mobile drives and outdoor campaigns through the summer.

“Our mobile units go to mosques, ministries, universities and companies in daily campaigns,” Dr Raouf said.

“Our regular donors are generous and come whenever we put out the word. For other donors we assure them the centres have high quality standards so they need never worry about diseases or infections.”

The centre is open through the weekend over the last two weeks of Ramadan and on the third day of Eid as well.

Krishna Kumar, a regular donor in Abu Dhabi, said he talks friends into donating too.

“Not everyone wants to give because they think they will get sick,” said Mr Kumar, a technician and donor for five of the seven years he has lived here.

“I’m also a platelet donor. I know it can save someone’s life.”

Dubai resident Amanjeet Singh organises camps every Thursday at clubs and hospitals during Ramadan.

“We have regular volunteers coming in so at every camp we will get 150 to 200 people,” he said. “We know there can be short supply during Ramadan. Since we don’t fast and many people who fast may not donate, this is a good thing to do.”

During Ramadan, the Abu Dhabi Blood Bank is open Sunday to Thursday from 7am to 3pm and 8pm to 2am; and on Saturday from 8pm to 2am.

The Dubai Blood Donation Centre is open from 9am to 2pm and 8.30pm to 1am, Sunday to Thursday.

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