Blood donation in India, challenges and way ahead

Almost everyone working in corporate India would have seen at least once in their tenure. Most CSR activities or corporate wellness activities, seem to incorporate at least one blood donation camp. Blood donation is relatively new concept. Ancient texts have shown instances of blood transfusion in Egypt and Greece. Even ancient Indian texts talk about it.

The first blood bank in modern India was set up in 1942.  This was essentially to support the war efforts at that time. Most donors were government employees or people sympathetic to the British cause in the war. Post War the camps shut down and the number of donors came down.

Years later the blood banks and setting up these channels, were set up by the efforts of Leela Moolgaonkar in Bombay (Now Mumbai) and Dr J G Jolly in Chandigarh. Dr JG Jolly is considered the father of the blood transfusion movement. He initiated the setting up of blood banks and declaring 1st October as voluntary blood donation day.

1980’s saw the setting up proper guidelines for blood donation considering the HIV epidemic. Today the Ministry of health and family welfare stipulates the following guidelines for volunteers who want to donate blood.

There are several parameters that determine the eligibility of an individual to donate blood. Guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Health, Government of India have to be followed by blood banks and organizations conducting blood donation camps.

  • Overall health- The donor must be fit and healthy, and should not be suffering from transmittable diseases.
  • Age and weight- The donor must be 18–60 years old and should weigh a minimum of 50 kg.
  • Pulse rate- Between 50 and 100 without irregularities.
  • Hemoglobin level- A minimum of 12.5 g/dL.
  • Blood pressure- Diastolic: 50–100 mm Hg, Systolic: 100–180 mm Hg.
  • Body temperature- Should be normal, with an oral temperature not exceeding 37.5 °C.
  • The time period between successive blood donations should be more than 3 months.

(Source: Wikipedia)

But of late the lack of coordination and communication in our healthcare system became apparent when NACO(National Aids Control Organization) released data on the usage of the precious blood donated by Indian volunteers. In response to an RTI NACO revealed that almost 2.8 Million units of Blood and Blood components that would amount to almost 6 Lakh Liters of blood are wasted every year. More on this story is at this link.

Well why is this happening when India faces a shortage of almost 3 million units of blood yearly ? This shortage leads to poor numbers for maternal and infant mortality that affects our health rankings as those published by Lancet recently. Also this affects deaths due to road accidents.

Well experts feel lack of planning and communication while setting up blood donation camps are the biggest culprits. As good will measure, many social and local political figures set up blood donation camps and  end up collecting as much as 3000 units of blood per camp. There are not enough doctors and health workers to screen the blood and take the medical history of the donors. Also storage facilities in rural areas are a problem. This leads to the wastage.

What is the solution

  1. Coordination with blood banks and hospitals is the key
  2. Donate blood at govt authorized blood banks only
  3. This ensures that proper medical history is taken at the time of blood donation and also screening of the blood is done
  4. These banks have proper storage that ensures that the blood is not wasted
  5. Finally one can donate blood every 3 months, so we probably need to schedule these drives along with hospitals and banks taking into account analytics from previous drives and the expected demand for blood across various months
  6. If you are planning to hold a camp do co-ordinate and take support from local hospitals and blood banks.

here is a list of the authorized blood banks across India. Do share your experiences, comments and suggestions with blood donation in the past.


Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

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