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People are treated by nurses at Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha II hospital in 2013
People are treated by nurses at Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha II hospital in 2013. The National Blood Transfusion Center and the WHO are hoping to raise voluntary blood donations to 50 per cent this year. Heng Chivoan

Voluntary donations sought

Cambodia is aiming to increase voluntary unpaid blood donations (VBDs) to 50 per cent in 2015, so as to reach an international goal set by the WHO to have 100 per cent of donors be volunteers by the year 2020.

Cambodia had approximately 40 per cent VBDs by the end of 2014, a 5 per cent jump from the previous year’s participation, said National Blood Transfusion Center director Dr Hok Kimcheng.

“Our plan is to improve participation up to 50 per cent by the end of next year and steadily increase in the next couple of years,” Kimcheng said.

According to WHO research, VBDs are the safest and most sustainable form of blood donation. However, 40 countries in the world continue to collect less than 25 per cent of their blood supplies from voluntary participants.

“When voluntary donors give blood, they do it when they’re healthy and have not been exposed to contaminants,” said Dr Sek Mardy, WHO’s technical officer for transfusion safety.

Family and replacement donors, who give blood in response to a need, are not considered as safe given that the donations are made under high-pressure circumstances.

Mardy said Cambodia is on the right track, but could not say whether the country will be able to reach its 2020 goal.

“It’s hard to say but … we’re doing fairly well, especially since we started the project here a couple of years ago,” he explained.

The WHO, along with the NBTC, plans to increase awareness about the initiative by visiting universities in the next year. A new blood centre is also currently in construction in Phnom Penh. Construction of one each in Siem Reap and Kampong Cham will start around next month, Mardy said.

With the recent HIV outbreak in Battambang, Mardy said there is no reason to worry about catching the virus from future transfusions since blood samples are thoroughly screened for any endemic diseases.

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