SINGAPORE - The number of young blood donors aged 16 to 25 has been declining in Singapore in a worrying trend.
Their numbers have fallen by 36 per cent in the last decade, from 21,793 in 2011 to 13,967 last year. Currently, they make up about 20 per cent of the donor pool, down from about 33 per cent 10 years ago.
This was flagged by the Singapore Red Cross (SRC), the national blood donor recruiter. Highlighting the seriousness of the situation, the SRC told The Sunday Times earlier this week that about 600 donors stop donating each year due to age or illness.
Donations have declined more significantly recently due to the pandemic, it added.
For instance, in 2021, during the two Heightened Alert phases with stricter restrictions and subsequently the rise of the Omicron wave, a total of 69 mobile blood drives were cancelled, including those in tertiary institutions.
"Community blood drives bring convenience and have their own loyal following of donors; they are also an important platform to attract first-time donors," said SRC chief executive Benjamin William.
While the overall proportion of blood donors have remained somewhat constant in the last decade, at around 1.8 per cent of the population, the demand for blood transfusion increases every year.
The SRC flagged misconceptions that may lead potential donors to be hesitant about giving blood, such as that one can catch diseases from doing so, not having enough blood left in the body, and blood withdrawal being painful.
Ms Ng Hiau Chin, 20, went through treatment for cancer in 2017 and needed many blood transfusions. It made her realise how critical blood donations are.
Ms Ng, currently a year two veterinary science student at Temasek Polytechnic, is urging more people to donate.
Recalling her experience in the hospital, she said: "Almost every child around me had at least one transfusion, so it was essential in saving all our lives."
Ms Ng, whose cancer has been in remission since March 2018, was diagnosed with stage three childhood Burkitt lymphoma in December 2017 when she was in secondary school. Chemotherapy is the main treatment for lymphoma, a cancer that forms in the lymph nodes.
Calling the three months of treatment the "lowest point of her life", she had to go through many chemotherapy sessions and five operations. She estimated that she received about one litre of blood every week at the time.
Each year, there are about 30,000 Singapore residents like Ms Ng who require blood transfusions, Mr William noted. He said: "Blood donation should be part of the national psyche as it is everyone's social responsibility."
Secretary-General of the Singapore Kindness Movement, Mr William Wan, said that donating blood should be second nature to everyone.
"Medical science may have advanced over the years, but a constant supply of healthy blood is still needed to keep the system running," he said.
One person who has embraced this mindset is Mr Ryan Koh, 23, a Singapore Armed Forces regular who has donated blood five times since 2018.
He started doing so as his friends were donating blood and now sees it as a "way of life".
Noting how each blood donation, according to SRC, can save three lives, Mr Koh said: "When you know how important your donation is, you would want to do more to help, especially when blood stocks are low."
He believes that being young and healthy, there is no better time to donate and urges youth in Singapore to do their part.
He said: "It is a painless process and when you have done it, it always feels like you have conquered a milestone in your life."
Where to donate:
You can make a blood donation at any of the four blood banks:
Health Sciences Authority
11 Outram Road
2. Bloodbank@Dhoby Ghaut
B1-05 to 10
11 Orchard Road
Woodlands Civic Centre
900 South Woodlands Drive
4. Bloodbank@Westgate Tower
10-01 to 05
1 Gateway Drive
For more information, go to the Singapore Red Cross' website on blood donation at giveblood.sg