Today, a group of foreigners living in Albania donated blood at the National Blood Transfusion Centre in Tirana.
Following reports of a national shortage of blood in Albanian hospitals, foreign resident and Exit journalist Alice Taylor organized the event which will kick off a series of blood donation drives that will take place in Vlore, Saranda, and Durres in the coming weeks.
Albania suffers from a blood shortage but this has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions and precautions have put off those that would donate and some are fearful to attend donation centers. Today’s event was designed to demonstrate that there is nothing to fear and that everyone can donate blood with no problems.
The lack of blood has led to severe problems not just in the capital but in areas such as Lushnje and Fier. These localities have high rates of thalassemia, a hereditary disease which results in less haemoglobin being produced. Haemoglobin enables red blood cells to carry oxygen in the blood. Severe forms of the disease require regular transfusions otherwise issues such as bone deformities, enlarged spleen, slowed growth, heart problems, and higher risk of infection.
Most of those affected are children and there are cases where they are turned away from treament due to a lack of blood. As they require transfusions every two weeks, the demand is constant yet can not always be met. This leads to difficult health complications for them, and worry for their families.
Brunilda Paskali, Advisor to President Meta said that the situation is a big cause for concern.
“We were struggling getting people to donate before the pandemic, now with COVID-19 the numbers have dropped significantly. This has devastating consequences for families that rely on transfusions, not to mention for those that may need blood in an emergency.”
The event was attended by the Swedish Ambassador Elsa Hastad who also donated blood. She gave a short speech during which she spoke of the importance of regularly donating blood and helping out in Albania. She explained that giving blood in Sweden is popular and some 3% of the population do it regularly, with even more doing it on an ad-hoc basis.
President Ilir Meta also attended to thank those who donated for their contribution. He heads up the Blood Donation Alliance which was created to encourage Albanians to donate blood on a regular basis. The Alliance aims to get 2% of the population to donate on a regular basis.
“I want to thank you all for coming here and donating blood today. This means a lot and I hope it will help to raise awareness of the need to donate blood regularly. Thankyou again for all you are doing,” said Meta.
Taylor also spoke briefly and she mentioned the importance of giving something back to the host country.
“We all enjoy living in Albania- the weather, sunshine, food, hospitality and way of life, sometimes it’s only fair to give something back. There are many little things we can do to contribute to our host society. Giving blood twice a year is a great, safe, and extremely useful thing to do. One donation can save the life of three people- it’s the least we can do.”
Today’s event was the first in a series of blood donation drives that will take place in Vlore, Durres, Tirana, and Saranda- cities where there are big expat and immigrant populations. On specified days, international residents will be able to attend the local blood bank and donate.
There are more than 14,000 foreign residents in Albania, mainly centered in Tirana, Durres, Vlore, and Sarande. While many are here for work, there is a growing number that comes here to work remotely and enjoy the benefits the country has to offer.
The plan is to encourage them to donate blood twice a year, taking a total of just one hour, to help those throughout the country that desperately need it. In addition to the donation, donors will receive a blood test and full medical check up for free.
Details of the upcoming blood donation drives in Tirana, Durres, Vlore, and Saranda will be announced in due course.