Why Donate Blood

Blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in liquid called plasma. Plasma is about 90% water, but also contains proteins, nutrients, hormones and waste products. Blood is made up of about 60% plasma and 40% blood cells. Blood and its components are essential for human life and are produced and replenished by the human body.

Each type of blood cell has a specific role to play:

Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body and remove carbon dioxide and other waste products; they give blood its red colour.
White blood cells are part of the immune system (the body’s natural defence mechanism) and help fight infection.
Platelets help the blood clot (thicken) to stop bleeding.
plasma helps carry nutrients and is essential to maintain blood volume and blood pressure and has important clotting factors
ONLY human blood can be used for transfusion to another human being and to save life or prevent serious ill health.

Giving blood is a pure and selfless act from one person, who voluntarily donates their blood for another unknown person, without pressure or expectation of any form of reward or payment in cash or kind.

Safe Blood

Anyone donating blood does so to help another in need and must be honest and ensure that they have no reasons or knowledge that the blood they donate can cause harm to the person receiving the blood.

This includes any risk behaviours, through sex, nonmedical injections and drugs, which could cause infections or harmful agents to be infused or transfused to recipients, especially vulnerable, ill persons, those who are old, women and children, all of whom can be harmed.

NBSZ is not a centre for screening diseases in the population. If there are concerns of being infected or to seek testing, for any reason, a person should NOT donate, but contact a Health Care Practitioner or Clinic; or a Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre (VCT).

Main Reasons for needing a transfusion

  • Women due to complications of pregnancy
  • Children, due to anaemia from infections and illnesses
  • Trauma victims due to blood loss (Road Traffic Accidents)
  • Blood loss due to surgical operations
  • Medical conditions requiring blood and component replacement, including Blood disorders (Sickle Cell anaemia)

Who Can Donate Blood?

  • All persons who are healthy and have no risks that can be transmitted to the recipients of their donated blood
  • Who are between 16 and 65 years of age and if already a repeat donor at 65yrs, this can be extended dependent on Medical assessment
  • If weighing 50kgs or more and meets the guidelines and criteria

Do I have enough blood and does it take long to donate a unit of blood?

A person who is 50kgs or more has a total blood volume of 4 – 6litres. The donation itself takes 10 – 15 minutes and a total of less than 30minutes of your time. The volume is less than half a litre (450mL). Donations can be safely made every 3/4months and even less if monitored. A health questionnaire on life style and a simple check to exclude anaemia is carried out before each donation, to ensure no harm to the donor or recipient.

What tests are done on donated blood?

The blood group (ABO) & Rhesus type (RhD) are determined on each donated unit, to ensure safety and compatibility with the recipient.

All blood is screened for infectious agents [HIV, Hepatitis B and C and Syphilis]. All processes, procedures and results are kept strictly confidential; if any variances are detected, blood donors are notified of and advised to contact NBSZ for confidential information exchange and if necessary counselling and referral.

Blood groups and Rhesus types

There are four main blood groups (types of blood):

Blood groups A, B, AB and O. are determined by the genes inherited from parents. In addition, each group is either Rhesus RhD positive or RhD negative [absence of RhD]. This results in eight possible combinations.

Group O is found in approximately 50% of all Zimbabweans, however, RhD positive is found in approximately 98% of the African population, and only 2% are RhD negative. In the Caucasian population RhD positive occurs in 85% and RhD negative in 15%.

Group O is in the greatest demand as it can be considered a universal donor, because in emergencies, or times of shortage, it can be transfused into persons of blood group A; B or AB, of the correct Rhesus D type. NBSZ prepares Red Cells by removing plasma, which may contain antibodies – anti A & anti B and replaces the plasma with an additive solution to improve blood flow and increase its life span.

What is the window period?

This is the period between the time a person has been infected with an infectious agent, such as a virus [HIV. Hepatitis B or C], and the time it takes for the infection to multiply to a level when screening tests are sufficiently sensitive to detect the presence of the infection. This Window period varies in accordance with the amount of the agent or virus entering the blood stream and the different infectious agent’s ability to replicate sufficiently quickly to be detected; Blood Services use reagents that are a combination of high SENSITIVITY [tests which detect very lowest levels of infection] and high SPECIFICITY [tests which only detect the specific agent do not give false positive results].

Is the blood donor informed of an abnormal finding?

At the time of interview for becoming a blood donor, information is provided on counselling services available by NBSZ and options on mechanisms for confidential information sharing with the blood donor; A medical doctor or a counselling organisation of the donor’s choice, will receive results in strict confidence

How can I help?

Talk to your friends and relatives about donating blood. Get them to become regular donors. Contact the nearest National Blood Service Zimbabwe Centre, ask for a mobile blood collection team to visit your
school or place of work.

Is it possible to get HIV, Hepatitis B or C from donating blood?

Absolutely not. All equipment and devices are single use The needle used is sterile and hermetically attached to the bag or tube and the donor will see that it is cut off from the blood bag once removed from the donor’s vein and disposed of in a special needle safe ‘burn bin’ along with all lancets and swabs used; nothing can be retrieved from these burn bins.

Can donating blood affect my energy levels or sexual ability?

After donating blood a donor is required to rest for 10 – 20 minutes and drink a liquid refreshment such as tea, soft drinks or water, to replace fluid volume; a biscuit or muffin may be offered. However, donors are advised to avoid strenuous activities and dangerous sports or occupations such as climbing scaffolding and heights for the remainder of the day.
Blood donation is not harmful and Regular or repeat blood donors often report feeling invigorated after donating blood, physically and psychologically!

Why is there a fee for a blood unit whet it is donated voluntarily, without payment?

Blooded is donated freely and there is no fee for the donated blood. NBSZ is a registered not for profit organisation. The fee is for the costs incurred in the collection, purchase price of blood bags; reagents for blood group and Rh typing; screening for infections agents; preparation of blood components; storage and blood cold chain; utility, administrative costs , transport and staff costs; maintenance and quality systems among many other costs, which are essential to ensure safety, access and availability of blood to every hospital nationally; At each Hospital the blood banks have fees, which they charge for testing the patient’s blood group and Rhesus type, matching the blood unit to the patient, to ensure compatibility and safety and various other tests necessary. These fees are quite separate from the Blood Unit Fee required by NBSZ to recover expenses for producing a safe unit of blood.


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