For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:   UNIS/SG/2522
Release Date:   20 March 2000
Secretary-General, in Message on World Health Day, Stresses Need
For Accessible, Safe Blood Supply for World’s People

 NEW YORK, 17 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan for World Health Day, which is observed 7 April:

 Each year, blood transfusions save millions of lives.  They are an essential component of the health-care system.  The theme for this year’s World Health Day  -- “Safe Blood Starts With Me ?- Blood Saves Lives” -- is a timely reminder of the importance of an accessible, safe blood supply for the world’s people.

 The safety of blood transfusion continues to be a critical problem in many parts of the world.  Technological advances have led to substantial improvements in industrial countries, but progress in developing countries has lagged behind. World Health Day 2000 draws our attention to the avoidable deaths that result from a lack of safe blood supply.

 Current estimates suggest that each year about 13 million units of untested blood are transfused.  The women, children and poor people of the developing world are particularly susceptible to infections transmitted through transfusion.  Although considerable progress has been made, much remains to be done to ensure global blood safety.

 Of the 191 World Health Organization member States, only 43 per cent systematically screen donors’ blood for Hepatitis B and C and HIV, and 29 per cent have national policies and plans to ensure blood safety.  Blood safety must be a key element of national health systems.

 The World Health Organization is working to promote the safety, quality, adequacy and appropriate use of blood.  All sections of society, from the highest levels of government to individual blood donors, must be involved.

 On this World Health Day 2000, let us commit ourselves to the goal of making safe blood supplies available to every patient who needs them, wherever he or she may live.  We should see this as one of the essential services to which every human being is entitled.

* * * * *