Kabul, August 2016. In the face of continued fighting and terror attacks, blood donation is of utmost importance in Afghanistan. However, such tragic occurrences are not the only compelling reasons behind the blood donation campaign conducted at EUPOL HQ in mid-August.
Acute shortage of blood
“We have 245 blood banks in Afghanistan, all with an acute need for blood at present due to heavy fighting in the Helmand, Bamyan and Kunduz provinces. The devastating suicide bombing which targeted a peaceful demonstration in Kabul three weeks ago injuring over 300 people has also led to the depletion of our blood reserves,” says Dr. Muhammed Hamed Faisal, the Deputy Director of the National Blood Bank in Afghanistan.
Most of the blood donated goes to trauma patients such as victims of attacks and traffic accidents. Other key recipients are women who suffer from excessive bleeding after childbirth and anaemic children affected by poor nutrition.
“I hope that the blood I donated can be of use to the heroes who are shedding blood for our safety, security and freedom,” said M. Nawab, an Afghan mission member.
This is the fourth time that EUPOL is teaming up with the Kabul Central Blood Bank to give blood and raise awareness on blood donation. The current campaign attracted 67 donors.
Rare blood groups
“I am very happy because the result exceeded our expectations. Most internationals have a rare blood group and they therefore make a valuable contribution,” said Dr. Ikram Yousufzai, a Senior Medical Officer at EUPOL.
Leif Hansen from Denmark, the Deputy Head of EUPOL’s MoI Reform Component, jumped at the chance to donate blood. “I believe that giving blood is a moral obligation. It is a small contribution which has a significant impact as it means a lot to certain patients. I also have a fairly rare blood group,” he said.
For Simona Luca, a Police Adviser from Romania, giving blood is a welcome opportunity to make a tangible contribution to Afghan society: “The chance to do something concrete feels invaluable.”
During the past ten years, the rate of blood donation in Afghanistan has gone up from 20% to 45%, with over half of the donors giving blood in the family replacement category and 1% of donors giving blood on a voluntary basis, according to the Afghan National Blood Bank.
Dr. Ikram Yousufzai cites existing myths about blood donation as major stumbling blocks. "Many Afghans believe that giving blood will make them sick. However, giving blood stimulates the bone marrow to produce new blood, a process that is repeated every 120 days. Blood that is not donated simply goes to waste so it's a win-win situation for all involved," he said.
Even if the blood donation initiative is not part of EUPOL's mandate, the campaign is a sign of the willingness of mission members to help improve the lives of Afghan citizens, through personal and collective voluntary efforts.