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    Press Release No:  UNIS/GA/1631
    Release Date:  6 April 2000
     World Health Day Opportunity to Launch New Stage in Global Blood Safety Goal, Says President of General Assembly in World Health Day Message

      NEW YORK, 5 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of the President of the General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), on the occasion of World Health Day, which is observed 7 April:

     World Health Day, 7 April, is a time for reflecting on the achievements in health and for encouraging further efforts.  It is an occasion to raise global awareness on a specific health issue and highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization (WHO).

     This year's priority area is blood safety, and the message is "Safe Blood Starts with Me -- Blood Saves Lives".  The objectives of this World Health Day are:  to raise awareness of blood safety issues globally; to encourage Member States to commit to and support national blood programmes and implement national blood legislation or a legal framework for a national blood programme to ensure the provision of safe blood; and to promote and retain donations from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors from low-risk populations. 

     The global community shares a common life source:  blood.  It is the life force in all human beings, regardless of colour, race or religion.  A healthy person has healthy blood, and healthy blood can and does save lives.  As world citizens and fellow human beings, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to contribute to sufficient and safe blood supplies.  There is no known risk factor in donating blood, and I want to encourage people everywhere to give generously. 

     Blood is a gift of life, but as with most of our precious resources, it  is not distributed evenly.  Twenty per cent of the global population consumes  80 per cent of the world supply of safe blood.  The other 80 per cent -- nearly 5 billion people -- have to make do with what remains.  Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO Director-General, underscored the urgent need for the availability of safe blood when she observed that "despite all the technological marvels that humanity is experiencing, reliable and safe blood supply is still out of the reach for untold millions of people around the world".  This situation is unacceptable, and it must change.

     In world health -- as in the body -- blood plays a crucial, but not a very visible, role.  We talk about diseases we must eliminate, and conditions and problems we need to improve, but we rarely mention that, in most of these, blood plays a crucial part.  Blood transfusions provide an essential and life-saving support in health care.  They save millions of lives annually.  The lack of access to transfusion therapy results in too many avoidable deaths, especially in the developing world among the poor, among women, children and trauma victims. 

     It is well accepted that between 5 and 10 per cent of HIV infections worldwide have been transmitted through the transfusion of infected blood and blood products.  Many more recipients of blood and blood products are at risk of contracting Hepatitis B and C, syphilis and other infectious diseases.

     The day for each of us may come when we may need blood.  When that happens, we would want to know that blood is available -- and that it is safe.  Because there is no protection against unsafe blood, the time to act is now.  Together, we can work to ensure that the blood we give -- or the transfusion we receive -- is safe.

     In commemoration of this Day, the WHO is launching a blood safety campaign, heralding the start of a five-year development of the WHO programme for blood safety.  I wholeheartedly endorse the life-saving work being carried out by T the WHO and other national and international organizations in support of blood safety and blood availability. There is no question, however, that it is the responsibility of national governments to ensure adequate supply of safe blood.  Blood safety must be a key element in any national health framework.  Although considerable progress has been made in many countries, much work still needs to be done to ensure blood safety globally. World Health Day provides an exciting opportunity to launch a new stage in the global goal for blood safety.  I invite people everywhere to respond to the message "Safe Blood Starts With Me -- Blood Saves Lives".

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