Young, black Londoners are being urged to step-forward as the next generation of blood donors in a drive to boost life-saving supplies.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) wants to recruit 7,000 new black donors by 2020 – and currently half the country’s black population lives in the capital.
Donations of rare blood types, which are more common among black communities, are particularly needed.
Theo Clarke, NHS Blood and Transplant National BAME Marketing Manager said: 'We need more black donors as some rare blood types are more common among black communities. Donations are used to treat blood disorders, such as sickle cell anaemia, which are more likely to affect the black community. Sickle patients ideally need blood from a similar ethnic background. We also need to ensure blood supplies for emergency treatment of those with rare blood types, for example after road accidents or childbirth complications.
'We’re incredibly grateful to those already donating, but it’s vital we encourage more black donors, particularly in London where such a large black population lives. And we need a new generation of donors to give blood and help save lives. If you’ve not given then why not start, and if you do give then please keep up the good work.'
The black community makes up around 5% of the population – with about half living in London - but active black donors currently account for only 1% of blood donors. *
NHSBT aims to recruit 1,000 new black donors over the next year and 7,000 over the next five years.
Shalona Willie from Hackney has sickle cell anaemia and owes both her life and that of her daughter, Harmony, to the generosity of blood donors. Five years ago, the 27-year-old fell critically ill while 38 weeks pregnant.
Shalona said: 'My red blood count was at its lowest and my body had, had enough and was on the verge of giving up. Luckily blood was available for a transfusion and a day later my daughter was born a healthy 6lb 14 oz. I was on the road to recovery and was able to enjoy motherhood.'
Shalona has since needed a second, life-saving blood transfusion after suffering a sickle cell crisis last Summer.
She adds: 'I'd like to say thank you to all those who have donated blood. If blood had not been available when needed it, I may not of survived something as natural as childbirth. Being able to raise my daughter and see her grow is priceless.
'To those who might be thinking of donating I would say this; it really does make a difference between another person’s life and death. I’m fortunate enough to have only needed two transfusions so far. However there are many more people within the black community with blood conditions like sickle cell who need regular transfusions just so they can live a somewhat normal life. By being a donor, you have the ability to give life.”'
Donor Vanessa Agyemang, 25, from Greenwich, began giving blood two years ago. She says: 'I've always enjoyed giving, and this is close to my heart as I know many people who suffer from sickle cell and the pain and struggle they go through on a daily basis. Giving blood is a painless activity in helping to save many lives.'
During the four week, London-wide campaign, NHSBT will be working with community and faith groups to raise awareness and boost donor numbers.
Radio adverts highlighting the need for more black donors will be broadcast across a number of London stations, supported by a social media campaign.
Black donors are also needed for the British Bone Marrow Registry, which holds details of blood donors who have volunteered to donate stem cells to patients who need them. Donors can join the registry by asking on session, before they donate blood.
Notes for editors