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A boon for thalassemics

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Airport Authority of India will support Indian Red Cross Society, Mumbai Blood Centre. Ronita Torcato reports

In the festival of light, there is  good news for thalassemics and others suffering from debilitating blood-related ailments. The Airport Authority of India  will support the India Red Cross Society Mumbai’s Blood Centre for a period of five years.  A formal Memorandum of Agreement on the same was signed at the IRC’s  Mumbai office which is part of  a network of over 700 branches in  India  established under the aegis of the Geneva-based international humanitarian organisation. 

Promoting  healthcare and providing relief in times of disasters and emergencies across the globe, the Red Cross movement was first conceived in 1859, when Henry Dunant, a Swiss youth, witnessed  a bloody battle in Solferino, Italy, between the armies of imperial Austria and the Franco-Sardinian alliance. Some 40,000 men lay dead or dying on the battlefield, while the wounded lacked medical attention. In  1863, five Swiss nationals  including Dunant, set up the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, which later became the International Committee of the Red Cross. Its emblem is the inverse of the Swiss flag: The following year, 12 governments adopted the first Geneva Convention offering care for the wounded, and defining medical services as "neutral" on the battlefield.

Red Crescent is the name used in Muslim countries adopted on the insistence of the Ottoman Empire in 1906.  The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was founded in 1919 in Paris in the aftermath of World War I by five Societies: Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the United States. The Indian Red Cross was set up in 1920. There are now 190 national Societies making the IFRC,  the largest independent humanitarian organisation in the world.

In Mumbai, IRC Blood Centre staff has  been providing medical assistance and counselling to thalassemia patients for several years now.  With inflation and escalating operational costs, the IRCS is  relieved that  the AAI  which has conducted blood donation drives, has stepped in to sustain  the project as part of its CSR initiative.  The formal signing ceremony was attended by Keshava Sharma, Regional Executive Director, AAI Western Region, Ashok Verma, Airport Director, Juhu Airport , Arjun Bulchandani, Chairman, IRCS-Mumbai, Suresh Deora, Vice Chairman,Dr Zarin Bharucha, Chairperson, Blood Centre and Dr Narinder Naidu, Medical Director, among others.

Dr Bharucha spoke about the IRCS Day Care facility where thalassemia patients are transfused with  blood as per their needs, and advised on various  medical therapies. Thalassemia is  an  inherited haemoglobin disorder wherein the red blood cells are destroyed and patients are dependent on blood transfusions for their survival. However, blood transfusions  are  associated with infections like Hepatitis B, C and HIV. This underlines the need for pure blood from safe donors; in this regard, the IRCS Blood Centre has played an important role treating  50 thalassemics  twice or thrice a month.  To meet requirements, the IRCS needs at least 1500-2000 units per month. This is where the  National Service Scheme and  the Social Service League of St Xavier’s College, have helped.  The SSL has been organising blood donation camps twice a year since it was set up  in 1951 by Spanish Jesuit educator Fr. M.M. Balaguer.

The need is great since 40 million Indians are suffering from thalassaemia minor (a mild form of anemia.)  Some 3,448 thalassemics have received free blood transfusions over the past nine years, thanks to the Maharashtra State Blood Transfusion Council which made it mandatory for blood banks to give blood free whenever required. Maharashtra is the only state in India  to run such a scheme for thalassemics.

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