A British Muslim charity is attempting to break the world record on Saturday for the largest number of blood donations in one day, as NHS blood supply stocks are running low.
The volunteer-led attempt is being led by Who Is Hussain, a social justice charity that is working with NHS Blood and Transplant, as well as the Imam Hussain Blood Donation Campaign, one of the country’s oldest Muslim blood donation organisations.
As part of the campaign, called #GlobalBloodHeroes, blood donation centres across the UK, and dozens of other centres in countries including Iraq and Thailand across six continents, will attempt to collect blood from 50,000 people. Donations began at a centre in New Zealand and will conclude in the US.
About 600 people have already registered to roll up their sleeves and donate blood in centres across the UK. “I tried to book myself in today and they haven’t got any slots left,” said Naz Shah, the MP for Bradford West, who visited a donation centre in Leeds. “It tells you how positive the campaign is going.”
Blood donations in the UK are especially lacking from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, who are more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes and some forms of hepatitis than white people, according to the NHS.
Last year, less than 6% of NHS blood donors in the UK were from people from BAME backgrounds. Blood conditions such as sickle cell disease and thalassaemia most commonly affect BAME communities. Blood donors and recipients from the same ethnic background are more likely to match.
Despite the number of Asian people giving blood increasing by 20% in the last three years, a shortage of BAME donors overall remains.
“I think we should encourage donations, especially for ethnic minority communities, because we’re not the biggest of blood givers,” said Shah. “From a Muslim perspective, we’re the largest charity givers. But do we see that when it comes to donating blood? There’s all these conversations to be had.”
The #GlobalBloodHeroes campaign coincides with Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, which is especially significant for Muslims who commemorate the legacy of Hussain, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, who was massacred with his family 1,400 years ago after he refused to give allegiance to a corrupt leader seeking to succeed his grandfather.
Aimen Al-Diwani, 31, a volunteer leading donations at an NHS blood donation centre in Leeds, said this significant historical event, and the Islamic principle in which saving one life is compared with saving mankind, motivated his decision to volunteer for the campaign.
“I’m inspired by the story of Hussain,” said Al-Diwani. “Through that story, it’s a way for us to be able to remember him through action by donating blood and taking the same story of self-sacrifice for humanity, in a simple and small gesture of just donating blood that takes less than an hour of your time.”
The NHS aims to have a six-day supply of each blood type. However, amid staff shortages at NHS donation centres and a shortage of blood donations because of the Covid pandemic, stocks are running low. NHS Blood and Transplant centres issued an urgent plea last month for people to come forward to donate.
“We are at our most challenging moment in the pandemic,” said Altaf Kazi, a representative for NHS Blood and Transplant. “We need people to donate over the summer to help recover blood stocks from four days to the usual six days.
“There’s now a huge rise in patients from ethnic minority backgrounds needing blood. We need more people like the amazing Who is Hussain donors to take that next crucial step to start saving lives.”.
With 36,000 people registered to donate blood around the world for the #GlobalBloodHeroes campaign, whether this global effort will succeed in breaking the world record will be determined in the next two weeks.