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#VolunteersActFirst – SANBS

The theme of this year’s International Volunteer Day, “Volunteers Act First. Here. Everywhere.” is an opportunity to raise awareness on the role that volunteers play as first responders in times of crisis.

To take this conversation forward, Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa has chosen to highlights and interview first-responder organisations in South Africa.

Our second interview is with South African National Blood Service (SANBS)

SANBS - pic

What is the mission of your organisation?

SANBS provides an essential service within South Africa and is rated amongst the best in the world in the provision of blood and blood products, research and training provided.

SANBS operates across South Africa with the exclusion of the Western Cape, and is further regarded as a major role player in the provision of support to countries in the SADC region.

Our key purpose is to save patients’ lives.

Vision: “To be a cornerstone of healthcare services in South Africa, through the gift of life.”

Mission: The mission of SANBS is to provide all patients with sufficient, safe, quality blood products and medical services related to blood transfusion in an equitable, cost-effective manner.


What role does your organisation play in responding to disasters? 

SANBS ensures that there is a safe and sufficient blood supply available to patients in need.  There are blood banks and emergency fridges in both private and public hospitals which ensures access to emergency blood products should they be required.


Which disasters in South Africa has your organisation recently been involved with? 

SANBS deals with daily trauma matters in various disciplines of healthcare. The majority of the blood is issued to patients receiving chronic blood transfusions as well as women during childbirth complications.


What challenges does your organisation face as first-responders during disasters? 

There needs to be a sufficient supply of safe blood available, and less than 1% of the population currently donates blood. This potentially puts strain on the blood supply, especially during school and university holidays as over 30% of the blood is donated by people under the age of 25 and these individuals usually donate at their schools and universities.


What role do volunteers play within your organisation? 

Every single blood donor is a volunteer and do this on a voluntary non-remunerated basis.  Over 480 000 blood donors supply over 824 000 units of blood every year.  The donors are also represented on our donor committees which are made up from volunteers.  The donor committees form a key part of the SANBS corporate governance structure.  SANBS also hosts a voluntary worker programme where members of the public can assist at blood drives and donor centres.


Please provide three key ways that individuals/companies/government organisation can assist in meaningful ways to ensure a better supply of blood in South Africa?

  1. To donate blood on a regular basis.  This will ensure a sustainable blood supply nationally. 
  2. Arrange a blood drive at your place of work, church, school or community centre.
  3. Encourage your fellow South Africans to donate blood.

What advice would you give to volunteers who wish to give blood?

  1. You need to be between the ages of 16 – 65 to donate blood for the first time
  2. You need to weigh more than 50kg
  3. You need to lead a safe lifestyle
  4. You need to be good health
  5. You need to consider your blood safe for transfusion