Timely and adequate access to safe blood forms an integral part of universal health coverage, but may be compromised by natural or man-made disasters. Blood services have the challenging task of responding quickly in these scenarios, carefully balancing efforts to prevent both blood shortage as well as unnecessarily high stocks of blood, which may need to be destroyed because of their limited shelf life.
To find out how disasters affect the blood supply chain, CEBaP conducted a systematic review, in cooperation with the International Department of the Belgian Red Cross. The goal was to determine the impact of disasters on blood donation rates, but also on the rates of transfusion-transmitted infections in donated blood.
We identified 18 observational studies providing very low-certainty evidence on the impact of disasters on blood donation rates and/or safety. Based on the available evidence, we can conclude that it is very uncertain if disasters are associated with transfusion-transmissible infection rates in donated blood. We were not able to make generalizable conclusions on the impact of disasters on blood donation rates. In order to reach higher certainty evidence, further transparentand active reporting on the impact of disasters on blood supply and safety is needed.
This systematic review was recently published in Vox Sanguinis and can be consulted here.
The International Department is currently setting up projects to raise awareness on the importance of voluntary donations, donor recruitment and retention as measures to bridge the gap between supply and demand and reduce the impact of disasters. In addition, they aim to optimize the blood services by delivering expertise and support, and support mobile collections, in order to ensure a safe and sustainable blood supply.