In 1975, the World Health Assembly recommended that blood for transfusion should come from voluntary, non-remunerated donors, but in Africa 75–80% of blood for transfusion still comes from hospital-based replacement donors. Although comprehensive economic data are scarce, evidence indicates that blood from voluntary donors recruited and screened at centralized transfusion centres costs four to eight times as much as blood from a hospital-based, replacement donor system. Donor recruitment, quality assurance systems and distribution mechanisms in the centralized system are major reasons for the cost difference. There are concerns about the sustainability of centralized voluntary donor systems and their compatibility with the levels of health care that exist in many poor countries; yet burdening patients' families with the responsibility of finding replacement blood donors will exacerbate poverty and reduce the safety of the blood supply. There are measures that can be introduced into hospital-based systems to improve safe blood supply in Africa but their effectiveness in different contexts needs to be evaluated.
Transfusion Medicine (2007) 17 (6) 434-442 [DOI:10.1111/j.1365-3148.2007.00798.x].