Despite a population of 1.3 billion, India faces an overwhelming shortage of donated blood.
India requires 12 million blood units annually. However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) reported a blood shortage of two million units last year. With the amount of road accidents that occur everyday in India, and the high levels of cancer patients who require blood transfusions, the need for donated blood is always urgent. In Mumbai alone, 900 blood units are needed each day for surgeries and blood transfusions. Due to a lack of knowledge and various unfounded myths over the simple process of donating blood, the unavailability of blood is leading to many unnecessary deaths.
Over 100 organisations and NGO’s have been working closely with the government to implement measures to promote the necessity of blood donating. In fact earlier this month a three-day national conference ‘BlodCon-2017’ was organised by the Federation of Indian Blood Donors Organisations (FIBDO). Blood Donor Motivator Organisations, including the National Blood Transfusion Council and the Hindustan Welfare Blood Donors Club, Phagwara, attended workshops and reviewed current activities and strategies for promoting a voluntary blood donation movement. The conference focused on social dialogue and recruitment of new donors as it drew up major guidelines and roadmaps–entitled Vision 2020–for their aim towards a program whereby all donations are from volunteers rather than paid donors.
However, despite the exhaustive work these organisations put in, people who need blood the most, and fast, are not getting it. New initiatives, and startups have found a way to combat this exact issue by using digital platforms. With 512 million people eligible for blood donations in India, the problem is not a shortage of blood, so to speak, but providing easy links and access between willing blood donors and people in need. Thanks to the advancements in tech, and an accessible digital ecosystem, data needed in this healthcare space can now be managed in an efficient manner.
In October, Facebook launched a new tool to try and connect its 201 million Indian users to blood banks and hospitals nearby. Using optional notification features whereby donors can be informed of nearby donation requests, the social media giant hopes the initiative will simplify the process of blood giving. At best it will spread awareness of the issue and need for blood donations to the many young users on Facebook.
A fairly new youth initiative and startup is also dedicating all efforts to bridging the gap between donors and patients. 17 year old Chethan M. from Bengaluru and his team at Khoon have become the important middlemen, connecting people who need blood with willing donors all over India through their online platform. Chethan’s motive behind starting Khoon back in September 2016 was to “provide a permanent solution in blood donation sector that has lasted for a decade, despite more than 100 organisations working for this cause.”
The startup is launching their new app this December which focuses on donor priority. The Khoon app will use data analysis to automatically notify all matched donors within a 10km radius when blood is urgently required. Using messenger pop ups the app will immediately ask the donor if transportation is needed. By teaming up with local cab agencies, Khoon will provide cab services to pick up the donor, and drop them home after the donation. Chethan also explained that food would be provided by Khoon for all donors. The app will work towards making the donation process as smooth as possible for both donor and patient in need of blood.
Working alongside the Red Cross, and other organisations such as the Sankalp India Foundation, Khoon is the first startup dealing with blood donations to be operating across India. After expanding in January 2017, Chethan and his team “have handled 1000 blood helpline requests in just 11 months.”Provided that the app is successfully implemented across the country, India has more than a thousand reasons to B+.