As blood banks run dry, Indonesia turns to communities to replenish supply

As blood banks run dry, Indonesia turns to communities to replenish supply
A worker fumigates a neighborhood in an effort to control the spread of dengue fever, amid the new coronavirus outbreak in Jakarta. (AP)
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Updated 18 May 2020

As blood banks run dry, Indonesia turns to communities to replenish supply

As blood banks run dry, Indonesia turns to communities to replenish supply
  • At present, Jakarta, which is the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic in Indonesia, needs an average of 1,000 blood bags a day

JAKARTA: With regular venues for blood donation closed due to coronavirus restrictions in Jakarta, the Indonesian Red Cross is asking communities to donate blood to ensure a sufficient supply during Ramadan, officials told Arab News on Sunday.
“With the current condition and in this Ramadan, we only have sufficient blood supply for every two days. Normally it is safe to keep a good supply for every four days,” said Linda Lukitari Waseso, head of the Indonesian Red Cross blood transfusion unit.
Blood donation drives are being held at subdistrict offices or community halls in the evening after people break their fast, with officials ensuring anti-virus measures are observed.
“As we comply with the health protocol during community blood drives, we can only take a maximum of 50 people for every blood drive and the time is limited too; we can only do it soon after iftar time until 8 p.m.,” she said.
At present, Jakarta, which is the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic in Indonesia, needs an average of 1,000 blood bags a day, but given the current condition, only 800 bags are available.
“So we are about 20 percent short of our regular supply in Jakarta,” Waseso said, adding that in previous years they anticipated the shortfall by prioritizing Muslim donors to give blood ahead of Ramadan, and encouraged non-Muslims to donate during the fasting month.
She added that shortages varied depending on the region’s population and which part of the country they were in.
“On average, a region should have a safe supply of about 20 percent out of its population,” Waseso said.
COVID-19 patients do not require a lot of blood bags. Still, a consistent blood supply is required by patients with regular transfusion needs such as those suffering from thalassemia, cancer or dengue fever.
Waseso said that blood supply dropped to only 60 percent in March when the pandemic started in Indonesia, but it was relieved after military and police personnel donated blood.
With blood donors required to take a two to three month break until their next donations, the Indonesian Red Cross has had to look to another pool of people.
Waseso hopes that more people will be encouraged to donate blood through community blood drives or by going to the local chapter of Indonesian Red Cross headquarters — open 24 hours for blood donations.
One such area is the Banjarnegara regency in Central Java province, which is hosting two blood drives this week to anticipate the shortage during the Eid holidays, said Dr. Agus Budi Susanto, head of the blood transfusion unit of the Indonesian Red Cross’ Banjarnegara chapter.
Susanto told Arab News that they were anticipating up to 100 donors for each blood drive. The donors are regular ones that they have contacted to donate again.
“We impose strict health protocol during the drive, so we only expect 100 out of the normal 200 donators.
Our staff members are equipped with personal protective equipment. We also conduct initial screening for them, and we will turn them away immediately if the donors have just returned from a trip out of the regency,” he said.