In an effort to make it easier for people to donate blood, Facebook has launched the Blood Donations feature in Sri Lanka in partnership with the Ministry of Health’s National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) supported by the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB). Till date, 24 blood cluster centers have been onboarded as part of the joint initiative.
Globally, millions of lives depend on access to safe and sustainable blood supply. The COVID-19 pandemic has also changed how and where people donate blood. Whether it be for regular blood transfusions or emergencies like road accidents, complex surgeries or COVID-related complications, access to blood is crucial to save lives. With this in mind, Facebook’s Blood Donations feature has been created to connect interested donors to blood banks and help build a community of support.
“The world is becoming increasingly connected due to social media,” said Hon. Pavithra Wanniarachchi, the Minister of Health in Sri Lanka. “We look forward to working with Facebook and partners, to digitize and strengthen our healthcare system and make it easier for people to stay informed and connected while facilitating blood donations. We encourage anyone who is able and willing, to sign up and contribute to the wellbeing of all citizens in the country. We can save many lives with your concern and participation.”
By the power of connection and community, Facebook’s Blood Donations feature has helped increase voluntary blood donations around the world. It gives people aged 18-55 the option to use Facebook to sign up to receive notifications from nearby blood banks, giving them the opportunity to reach out and donate.
A press briefing was organized to discuss the launch of Facebook’s Blood Donations feature. Panelists included Oshada Senanayake, Director General of Telecommunication Regulatory Commission; Dr. G S K Dharmarathna, Deputy Director General of Health Services (Laboratory Services); and Dr. Palitha Karunapema, Director, HPB.
“The National Blood Transfusion Service of Sri Lanka is driven by voluntary non-remunerated blood donors,” said Dr. Lakshman Edirisinghe, Director of NBTS, who also attended the press briefing. “The Facebook Blood Donations feature enables direct communication with blood donors islandwide and this will be a valuable asset to our service, especially during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
In Sri Lanka, Facebook has partnered with the Health Promotion Bureau and other local organizations to ensure that people have access to credible health information online. This will also help debunk misinformation, such as wrong cures. With the support of HPB, Facebook has trained health professionals on the use of social media for health communications. Facebook also works closely with the National Institute of Mental Health to raise awareness on mental health and wellbeing using digital platforms.
“Facebook hopes to build communities that support each other in times of need,” said Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama, Policy Programs Manager for Sri Lanka at Facebook. “Because of the global pandemic, more people are using digital platforms to create health awareness and form support systems. We are happy to work with the government and partners to make it easier to donate and ensure that more people have access to safe and sustainable blood supply.” Over 85 million Facebook users globally have signed up through the Blood Donations feature to receive notifications from nearby blood banks. This feature is now available in 28 countries, including Sri Lanka.