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Zimbabwean Health Authorities Court Blood Donors on Valentine's Day

Deputy U.S. Ambassador David Abell said the drive aims to make blood, which now costs US$65 per 575 milliliter unit, affordable as well as available to Zimbabweans and safe for the ultimate recipients

Zimbabweans turned out on Monday in large numbers to give blood in response to a campaign launched by the Ministry of Health and international partners asking them to mark Valentine’s Bay by donating a pint of blood to the national transfusion bank.

The campaign, supported by the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, aims to ease critical blood shortages.

Officials hope to recruit 130,000 new donors in the two-week campaign entitled “Give Love, Give Blood.” Last year only 57,000 Zimbabweans gave blood.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador David Abell said the drive aims to make blood affordable as well as available to Zimbabweans. A 575-milliliter unit of blood now costs $65.

"Due to financial strains for the procurement of blood and blood products, assistance from resource partners is needed to produce a safe pint of blood at significantly reduced unit price," Abell said.

The envoy said the U.S. government is supporting Zimbabwe through its President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief with US$55 million in annual funding. Out of this funding source Zimbabwe's National Blood Transfussion Services has received $1.8 million to improve and maintain blood safety standards and access to blood.

Health Minister Henry Madzorera said many people are reluctant to give blood because they do not like needles, and also believe there are already enough donors. He urged Zimbabweans to do some "soul searching" and volunteer to give blood.

"It is my conviction that with this gesture, a new generation of adult blood donors will emerge," Dr. Madzorera said. "As adults we have grave a responsibility – to ensure that we contribute significantly to the health and indeed blood needs of the country.

"It is an ambitious goal but the experience of other countries in achieving it shows that, after all, it is not an abstract vision; yes it is possible," Dr. Madzorera said.

Dr. Ruth Walkup, country director for the Centers for Diseases Control, said she hopes the campaign will attract new donors and avert a national blood supply crisis.