By Olivia Acosta

The Ecuadorian Red Cross is a key player in the collection and supply of safe blood in the country, covering 70% of the demand for clinics and hospitals in 24 provincial boards. In order to respond to this need, it is essential to involve people in donating blood, which means a great effort to communicate and raise awareness among citizens.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voluntary blood donation in Ecuador has decreased dramatically putting the country’s supply at risk. Now more than ever, the Ecuadorian Red Cross has asked citizens not to stop donating to avoid blood shortages, and has activated a campaign to ensure blood supply.

According to Monica Pesantez, Manager of the National Blood Center of the Ecuadorian Red Cross, blood stocks in the country have been greatly reduced due to COVID-19 emergency: the collection fell by 78% in April (from 18,000 donors per month to 4,420).  In view of this situation, an awareness campaign was launched encouraging donors to make use of the home service, which offers all the safety guarantees required by the World Health Organization.

Marco Herdoiza, Technical Director of the Ecuadorian Red Cross National Blood Centre, states that “The Red Cross wants to provide donors with all the necessary security that this situation requires. For people who prefer not to go to the donation centres, the institution collects the donors from their own homes and then takes them back, with all the necessary security measures ensured throughout the process”. In addition, blood donation is also being offered at home with a mobile unit to prevent donors from going out into the street and exposing themselves to the risk of contagion.

From March 14 to June 30, 30,000 whole blood donations have been obtained from the processing of different blood products. In the month of June, with the home collection and the communication campaign underway, it was possible to grow by 200% (from 4,420 to 13,384 blood donors)

Many people need blood to replace large blood losses in surgery, trauma, gastrointestinal bleeding, childbirth, and cancer treatments, among others. In Ecuador only 1.4% of the population donates blood. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) establishes that in order to meet blood needs, at least 2 to 5% of the population must donate blood.

Ecuador is the fourth Latin American country, along with Colombia, Brazil and Argentina, to have a blood center. Thanks to the management and initiative of the Ecuadorian Red Cross, the center was inaugurated on November 5, 2009. The purpose of the Hemocenter is, on the one hand, to centralize blood screening in order to guarantee a unique quality under national and international standards, and on the other hand, to decentralize donation in order to reach 100% of voluntary blood donors and a national coverage of the demand for blood products.