Hundreds of churchgoers answer the call to donate blood amidst national shortage

More than 600 members of Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Southern Africa answered the call to donate blood on Saturday 28 May 2022 to help ease the national blood shortage. Donations in some cities have started as early as Wednesday with many more churchgoers expressing their desire to help by donating much-needed blood.

According to Ravi Reddy, the CEO of the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), blood stock levels are currently at a critically low level due to the COVID-19 pandemic that limited access to regular blood drive venues. “We are appealing to the public to please donate much-needed blood.”

In the Western Cape alone the WCBS needs to collect a minimum of 700 units of blood daily to sustain demand in the province. “One unit of blood equals 475ml that is collected from one donor. We always try and ensure a 5-day blood stock supply. Unfortunately, at the moment we are in critical need, and we only have a 1-day supply,” says Marike Gevers, spokesperson for the Western Cape Blood Service (WCBS).

Other provinces of South Africa are experiencing a similar challenge. The shortage caused by the pandemic is said to be worsened by the recent floods, devastation and unrest in some provinces that made it difficult to maintain a steady blood collection and supply.

Neelashan Govender, a representative of the SANBS in the Durban area, remains hopeful the situation will get better. He lamented the fact that the closure of schools due to holidays, impacts blood stock volume as it is scholars who normally donate in their numbers. Govender emphasized the importance of blood type O – as it can be used for all the other blood types.

With this cry for help, hundreds of members of Shincheonji churches from Cape Town, Gqeberha, Durban, Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg and as far afield as Bafokeng decided to organise a national blood drive. “The church’s desire is to assist and alleviate this burden on the national and local blood service caused by the aftermath of the pandemic. We want to help the community and save lives in this time of shortage,” a spokesperson for the church said.

A Shincheonji church member in Durban donating his blood.

“I want to help by giving 30-minutes of my time to donate one unit of blood, and hopefully save one or more lives. I am so excited that so many other members have also decided to do the same,” Cleo Solomons, a congregation member of Shincheonji Church, said.

Another churchgoer, Nolwazi Bengu, said that “Because our hearts are for helping people, we moved as fast as lightning to organise this blood drive throughout the country. This is the very least that we can do. Please be encouraged by this and take some time yourself to also come and donate your blood.”

Approximately 18,000 members of the church in South Korea also participated in donating blood since the start of their drive in April. This number was recorded as the largest group blood donation in the country to date. The head of the Korean Red Cross Blood Service, Mr Namsun Cho, said in a statement, “When the impact of the Omicron reached its peak, Shincheonji Church launched a large-scale blood donation drive. It was like rain during the drought. We are surprised that the number of donors exceeded 6,000 in just 3 days and so many more participated. We appreciate their life-saving dedication.”

In KwaZulu-Natal, Govender from the SANBS further asked for other churches to emulate Shincheonji Church and donate blood as the shortage remains critical in the province. He said that although the SANBS have worked with other churches before, they found the Shincheonji national blood drive encouraging as the church has pledged to bring their donor members in droves this past Saturday.

A church member of Shinchenji in Gqeberha has his blood pressure checked before donating blood

“We don’t have that many donors that come out and so many people who are actually into donating blood. So, it’s quite amazing what Shincheonji did. It makes a huge difference,” said Chantelle Bouw from the SANBS in Gqeberha. “One blood donation can save up to three people’s lives.” She urged the public to also participate by visiting their nearest donation centre.

To find your nearest donation centre contact 0800 119 031 (national) or 021 507 6300 (Western Cape only). You can also visit www.sanbs.org.za or www.wcbs.org.za