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By Shaukat Korai

For the last 41 years, students of the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) are running the Patients Welfare Association (PWA) to manage blood donations for needy patients. Like all other matters, the coronavirus outbreak has affected their work too as the number of donors have gone down drastically.

But, the volunteers of PWA have still not lost hope and continue to get as many blood donations as they can.

Abdulaziz, who is a third-year student of MBBS at DUHS and has also been working as a volunteer for the last two and half years with PWA, says that he joined the association with the aim of helping humanity and that is why he has decided to continue working during these challenging times of Coronavirus too.

“In my first year (of degree), I visited PWA and witnessed the procedure of blood transfusion to Thalassemia patients here. Impressed by the work, I decided to be a part of this organization,” says Abdulaziz.

Sometimes he has even comprised his studies to arrange for blood for thalassemia patients to save their lives. He explains it is because the PWA is facing many difficulties under the pandemic and so have fewer blood donations and a shortage of funds.

“People are not stepping out of their homes in fear that is why the concept of voluntary blood donations is being affected,” he says. “Thalassemia patients from rural Sindh are facing difficulties to reach Karachi for transfusion.”

According to Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal, approximately 100,000 patients are suffering from Thalassemia in the country and every year 5,000 babies are born with this deadly disease. These patients need a regular blood transfusion and iron chelation along with regular diagnostic investigations on a monthly basis.

Most of the Thalassemia patients depend on blood donors for the periodic transfusion but since the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown, donations have gone down.

According to Younis Sadiq, who works as a technician in the blood bank at the PWA, they used to get 300 to 350 bottles of blood in donation per day but now they only managed to get 100 bottles.

This reduction is taking a toll on Thalassemia patients who require blood to survive. Farah, a mother of a child suffering from the blood disease says she was very worried about the entire situation.

“Now I have to come here using rickshaw, which costs us over Rs600 per trip. So, I need to save money to bear transportation charges to come here for transfusion once in a fortnight,” she says.

Besides a reduction in blood donations, PWA is also facing financial issues to run their day to day affairs. PWA’s Resource Generation Officer Junaid Razzaq says they are getting less monetary donations because their contributors are now focusing more on distributing ration among the needy. He urges resourceful people to come and help them.

“We are facing a shortage of Rs8.5 to 9 million of funds. So, it is my request to all the people to kindly help us by giving more donations now,” he says. “We are working to help these poor patients, who are relying on God’s blessings and your contributions.”