Facts about donating blood

The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) collects more than 1 000 000 units of blood a year. Voluntary, unpaid donations account for 100% of this life-giving supply.

Donors come from all walks of life and SANBS’s total donor base numbers 491 000 donors. Some are more active than others and most are repeat-donors. In order to ensure they are able to continue donating for many years, donors are only permitted to donate once every 56 days.

Each unit of blood measures a little less than half a litre and it is processed to produce various blood products. Every unit of blood is estimated to benefit three individuals and SANBS aims to collect 3 000 units each day.

Blood is critically needed for a wide range of medical procedures. Besides its well-known use in emergency medical care, blood is essential during many forms of surgery, when mothers haemorrhage during childbirth, and in order to replenish the blood of people battling leukaemia, other cancers and other blood disorders.

SANBS operates in all provinces except the Western Cape. It has 87 fixed donor clinics and runs about 100 blood drives daily at institutions, workplaces, shopping malls and other places frequented by large numbers of people.

SANBS is striving to develop a blood donor base that matches the diverse nature of our population. This means growing the number of young donors and black donors. In recent years the number of black donors has been increasing steadily and currently four out of 10 blood donors are black.

The long-term answer to meeting increasing demand lies in the hearts and veins of present and future donors. More frequent donation by occasional donors would make South Africa blood-secure for the medium-term. But new donors, who are committed to making at least four donations a year, are the key to the future.

For more information on the blood donation process:
Please visit our donor site here to find your nearest donor centre. Alternatively, you can call our team on 0800 11 9031 to find your closest mobile donor clinic.

The blood donation process
Step 1: Eat a meal 4 hours before going to the donor centre
Step 2: Completion of donor questionnaire
Step 3: Interview with SANBS nurse
Step 4: Blood pressure, blood iron levels and weight measured
Step 5: Give blood