West Bengal blood banks run dry due to polls

June 2nd, 2009 - 11:25 am ICT by IANS  

By Soudhriti Bhabani
Kolkata, June 2 (IANS) It’s the flip side of India’s month-long general elections. Blood banks in West Bengal are facing acute shortage as social clubs, organisations and political parties were too busy with the polls to organise donation camps.

The summer months are any way a lean period for organising donation camps due to scorching heat, but this year it has become worse due to the polls, said Apurva Ghosh, general secretary of the West Bengal Voluntary Blood Donors’ Forum.

Over 100 blood banks, of which 58 are state-run, have failed to meet the average requirement of blood units, particularly affecting thalassemia and blood cancer patients who need regular blood transfusion.

“The situation is bad as far as the stock of blood units is concerned. The social organisations and clubs were mostly busy making arrangements for different political parties during the polls. They also avoided holding any camp due to the searing heat,” Ghosh told IANS.

The state needs around 750,000 units of blood per year, which is more or less achieved at other times through cumulative efforts of state-run and private blood banks.

The average requirement of blood units in the state varies from 50,000 to 60,000 units per month. Of this, 60 percent is used in Kolkata.

In 2008, the total collection of blood units was around 710,000.

“We could get less than 45 percent of the total monthly requirement during April-May this year. The number of donors has fallen significantly,” Ghosh said.

With most of the NGOs and clubs having some political affiliation or the other, all were involved in campaigning.

“No one takes interest in organising any blood donation camp during summer. We’re finding it really difficult to meet the regular demand of blood units,” said an official of the Central Blood Bank in Maniktala.

In West Bengal, the crisis for blood banks usually surfaces twice a year - in summer and during the festive season. In these four months (April-May and September-October), the state faces a total shortage of around 95,000 units.

“We have also intimated the Election Commission about this blood shortage during the elections, as most of the polls in the state take place during summer. West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer Debashis Sen has promised us that he would write a letter to the Central Election Commission to consider this problem next time during elections,” Ghosh said.

(Soudhriti Bhabani can be contacted at soudhriti.b@ians.in)

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