3 Times a Year Valentine’s Promise!

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Just as your blood temperature “boils” with butterflies in your stomach when you fall in love, then in the very same way you can decide to donate blood as from this Valentine’s Day. This is the spirit with which the Blood Transfusion Service (BTS) of Namibia officially launched its “Three Times a Year from Valentine’s Day to Valentine’s Day” blood donation campaign. This means that for anyone aged between 16 and 65 years, weighing over 50 kilograms and living a healthy and safe sexual lifestyle, he or she can make a promise to donate blood three times a year over the next 12 months beginning today, February 14, 2007 to the same day next year. On average, a donor donates blood 1.7 times a year. Yet the essence behind this campaign is to increase this pace to three donations a year, by just 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 of the current 10ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 donors. This would ultimately mean an additional 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000-plus units a year. Officially launching the campaign in Windhoek yesterday, Medical Director of the BTS Namibia, Dr BjÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶rn von Finckenstein, said this Valentine’s initiative is part of the organization’s bid to encourage more people to become regular blood donors. “In order to retain current blood donors and recruit new ones we have to be innovative, and that’s why we decided to use the well-known Valentine’s Day as part of our campaign – Promise to donate blood three times a year!” said Dr Von Finckenstein. On a more serious note, however, this drive to get more blood will go a long way towards addressing the critical shortage of blood that BTS Namibia faces almost every year. It turns out that the much-needed blood can be used for urgently-needed special products like blood platelets or paediatrics for babies, operations and even for those who may require more blood when involved in motor vehicle accidents. During January this year, the organization collected 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 657 units, showing a significant increase in blood demand of 14 percent over the same period last year. However, Public Relations Officer of the Blood Transfusion Service of Namibia, Liezl Schwerdtfeger, informed New Era that this impressive level of blood donation must be maintained, especially considering the short supply of the Blood O Group that is used in most emergencies countrywide. “This does not mean that we can relax. We must now maintain the minimum stocks and try and build up an excess in preparation for the Malaria Season, which will possibly start late February / early March,” said Schwerdtfeger. She added that, with the extensive rains and flooding, there are many breeding areas for mosquitoes in the northern regions and “… we don’t know how severe malaria will be this year”. Schwerdtfeger said most people become anaemic because malaria attacks mostly the red blood cells, and therefore more blood than usual is needed. Statistically, 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 400 Namibians die from malaria every year. “Hence, the organization needs more donors,” Dr Von Finckenstein added. “We need new donors, and anyone who has not yet donated is a potential blood donor,” he said. As a special treat, donors who stick to their “Three Times a Year Valentine’s Promise” will receive a practical, insulated mug and will also be happy with the fact that he or she has done their part towards saving lives.