Media Release: Missing types

Global call for blood donors of the future

  • Blood services around the world join Missing Type campaign to reverse decline in new donors
  • Survey reveals 30% drop in new donors across 21 countries last year compared to decade ago
  • South African National Blood Service (SANBS) says new young donors are needed in South Africa
  • Campaign launches 16th August 2016
  • Picture caption: Table Mountain without it’s As, Bs, and Os, in support of a global drive for new blood donors

Every second three people across the world receive a life changing blood transfusion. 1

Blood donation saves lives. But the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) is uniting with blood donor organisations across 21 countries to highlight an almost 30% international drop in people becoming blood donors compared to a decade ago. 2

In a survey for the Missing Type campaign, participating blood services reported the number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time was 1,830,003 in 2005 and 1,324,980 in 2015 – a drop of 27.6% in 2015 compared to 2005.

The campaign – first held in England and North Wales by NHS Blood and Transplant in 2015 – this year brings together 25 blood services from 21 countries covering one billion of the world’s population who are each calling for new donors to ensure blood donation for future generations.

In South Africa, there is a particular need for new donors with O negative blood. O negative blood can be transfused to anyone, so these donors are referred to as “universal donors”. However, all blood groups are required to ensure adequate stocks at all times.

Key barriers to people coming forward to donate that were identified by blood services around the world include:

  • increasing urbanisation
  • wider and more exotic travel
  • people have less time to give in an increasingly busy and digital world
  • lack of awareness about the need for more diverse blood donors
  • a rise in the popularity of tattoos

Throughout the campaign As, Bs and Os, the letters of the main blood groups, will disappear in everyday and iconic locations and from well-known brand names. The letters will be disappearing from famous locations in Australia, America, Japan, Ireland, England, and many more countries. Celebrities supporting the campaign include actress Jamie Lee Curtis and rapper LL Cool J, local celebs Thapelo Mokoena, Zizo Beda, Khaya Mthethwa, IFani, Bokang, Mzokoloko Gumede, Christopher Jaftha , Joe Mann, Sandile Kubheka, Cameron Classens and Phindi Gule.

Additionally, patients from around the world whose lives were saved by transfusions have thanked blood donors in a moving video called Talking Heads, to highlight that in a world without As, Bs and Os, they would not be here today.

Sillungile Mlambo, Senior Marketing Manager for the SANBS, the service that collects, tests and processes blood across South Africa said: “Blood transfusions save lives and transform health for millions across the world. But they are dependent on people donating blood. Whether it is patients receiving treatment for cancer, blood disorders, after accidents or during surgery, or new moms who lost blood in childbirth, blood is an absolutely essential part of modern healthcare.

“We really hope that people living in South Africa will be inspired by the Missing Type campaign and start saving lives by becoming blood donors. It’s incredibly easy and painless to donate blood, by simply visiting one of 86 donor sites, or 66 mobile teams in the country.”

A number of high profile brands, individuals and organisations are backing the campaign in South Africa.

According to the SANBS, just 7% of new blood donors are people between the ages of 16 and 25 (according to 2015 stats).

You can start donating blood across South Africa from age 16, if you weigh over 50 kilograms and lead a sexually safe lifestyle. Keep in mind one must never donate blood to receive a free HIV test as it places lives of patients at risk.

Jon Latham from NHS Blood and Transplant, the service which has co-ordinated the campaign, said: “We’re delighted the South African National Blood Service is taking part in the Missing Type campaign.  It doesn’t matter where you’re from in the world, there will be patients in your country whose lives depend on transfusions. And I really hope that the Missing Type campaign will inspire more people to come forward in S to start saving lives. Hopefully by working together we can reverse the international decline in new donors.

  • To sign up as a new donor, visit sanbs.org.za for your closest donor site.
  • Support the campaign on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram #MissingType.

85,000,000 Red Cell Transfusions a year (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22751760

2 Countries joining the Missing Type campaign who provided data to the Missing Type survey 2016:

UK: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland

Europe: Belgium, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands

Asia: Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore

Australia/Oceania: Australia, New Zealand

South America: Brazil

North America: Canada, USA, (United Blood Services locations does not incl. American Red Cross, Blood Centres of the Pacific, Inland Northwest or any other member centre)

Africa: South Africa

In a survey for Missing Type in April 2016, participating blood services reported the number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time was 1,830,003 in 2005 and 1,324,980 in 2015 – a drop of 27.6% in 2015 compared to 2005. Not all services were able to provide full responses.

Countries joining the Missing Type campaign but which did not provide date for the global insights survey: Hong Kong, Lithuania, Nepal

In 2015 the 25 blood services joining in the Missing Type campaign provided 14.7 million units of blood to treat patients thanks to the generosity of 8.16 million blood donors – 1.3 million were first time donors.

About the South African National Blood Service (SANBS)

SANBS is a non-profit organisation which aims to provide all patients with sufficient, safe, quality blood products and related medical services in a sustainable manner. It is rated among the best in the world in the provision of blood and blood products, as well as research and training. SANBS operates across South Africa with the exclusion of the Western Cape, and supports its counterparts across the SADC region. Website: www.sanbs.org.za, Facebook: www.facebook.com/sanbs, Twitter: @thesanbs