Despite the many technological advances in science and medicine, blood cannot be manufactured, and South Africa’s two blood transfusion services rely 100% on volunteers to donate blood regularly.

The Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) collects and supplies safe blood for the Western Cape region as far as George, and the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) does the same for the rest of South Africa. Eight out of 10 people in this country will need blood or a blood product at some point in their lives, while about one in 10 hospital patients is in current need of a blood transfusion. The blood transfusion services say around 3 000 units of blood are needed per day to keep up with the demand. Yet less than one percent of the population donates blood.

Blood is needed for patients who have experienced blood loss due to trauma or accidents, but this is just one instance. It is also needed during surgeries where blood loss may be life-threatening, for example organ transplants, as well as during childbirth, where blood may be needed by both mother and child. Blood is also used in the treatment of certain cancers and blood disorders.

Whole blood, which is blood in its entirety, consists of four essential components – red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma and platelets. Each of these has its own function and donated blood is divided into various products based on these functions. So a patient will receive the particular component they need. For example:

Whole blood is used to restore blood volume after massive blood loss.

Red blood cells, which transport oxygen and carbon dioxide between the body’s tissues and lungs, are used for the treatment of anaemia and bleeding after trauma surgery.

Plasma, the liquid component of blood, accounts for about half of each unit of whole blood. Plasma contains nutrients and protein and is used mainly for its clotting abilities, replacement of blood volume and the production of albumin. It is used in the treatment of burn wounds, bleeding disorders and to provide antibodies against infections.

Platelets help blood to clot, and is used, for example, to correct low platelet count during the treatment of leukemia and during bone-marrow transplants.

You can donate blood if you…
• are aged 16 to 65
• weigh more than 50kg
• are medically healthy
• lead a safe sexual lifestyle

The SANBS explains that one unit of blood lasts 42 days after donation, and that is why it’s important that regular blood donations are received. Donors can give blood as often as every eight weeks. Your body replaces the unit of blood donated (475ml) within 24 hours, and each unit of blood donated can potentially save three lives.

Remember, you or a loved one may be in a position where you need blood. Make the life-saving decision to donate. The services offered by the WPBTS and SANBS are professional and safe and their staff are on hand to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Give them a call to find out where their nearest donation point is or get information on mobile clinics that can visit your place of work or school. It will take half an hour out of your day.


South Africa

WPBTS: SMS ‘Blood’ to 33507, call 021 507 6300, email or visit
SANBS: Call 0800 119 031 to become a donor, email visit

NamBTS: +26 461 386 300

Lesotho Blood Transfusion Service: +266 2231 6091
Facebook: Lesotho National Blood Transfusion Service

Botswana National Blood Transfusion Services: +267 313 2892
Facebook: Botswana National Blood Transfusion Services

Swaziland National Blood Transfusion Services: +26 824 047 732
Facebook: Swaziland National Blood Transfusion Service


DONATE BLOOD AND SAVE LIVES DONATE BLOOD AND SAVE LIVES Reviewed by Jet Club on December 21, 2018 Rating: 5
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