There is a shortage of blood in India. The urgency varies between states and cities, but there is generally 10% less donated blood that the needed amount. Because of this extreme shortage, Facebook users in India are using the platform to try and locate matching blood donors for their friends and family members.
Hema Budaraju, a product manager for Facebook in South Asia commented, “Our teams have identified a real need in India. People are using Facebook literally thousands of times a week to look for blood donors.”
As a result, Facebook is implementing a new tool on October 1st which will prompt Android and web users to provide their blood type and whether or not they’ve donated before. These details won’t be made public unless the person opts to share their information to their news feed and spread awareness.
Budaraju has personal experience with the difficulty of blood shortages in India. Five years ago, his father was in hospital being treated for cancer and he required daily platelet transfusions. Due to the blood shortages, his family had to call friends and other family members to seek help.
Now, there are numerous Facebook groups specifically for people to list “Name, health issue, blood group, amount needed, hospital and a contact number” in the hopes of someone coming to their aid.
Given that there are 201 million active Facebook users in India, this new feature will hopefully have a beneficial impact on the blood shortage.
In its initial stages, the tool will just sign donors up. But in the coming months, they hope to expand it so that users in need of donations will be able to make requests that any donors with a matching blood type in the nearby areas will receive notifications for.
Sonu Singh, manager at the Rotary Blood Bank in Delhi, discussed the reasons for the shortage. “The lack of blood is caused by widespread myths about the process, and a 1995 ban on paying donors. Many people believe that donations deplete the body’s blood supply, that vegetarians cannot donate, or that it makes women weak or anemic.”
According to the World Health Organisation, India has the lowest percentage of female donors in the world, coming in at just 6%.
Singh said “”It is very important to [educate] people about it so that we have more voluntary blood donations in our country.”