London

'I am a Muslim and I give Blood' - push for donors in London.

Poster campaign for I Am A Muslim And I Give Blood
Image caption It is hoped the campaign will encourage more Muslim's to donate blood

A new campaign with the slogan I Am A Muslim And I Give Blood is being spearheaded by an Islamic volunteer organisation in London to encourage Muslims to sign up as blood donors.

The group, Young Planners, will be in five London mosques on Friday 14 June to mark World Blood Donor Day.

The campaign will target ethnic minorities within the Muslim community, a large proportion of whom are South Asian.

According to NHS figures, British South Asians make up less than 2.5% of all blood donors across the UK.

Theo Clarke, of NHS Blood and Transplant, said low numbers of donors was a real problem.

Fewer young people

He said: "There's a 20% chance of South Asians being blood group B, whilst this is 9% for Caucasians. In such a diverse country, it's important that our blood donor base is as diverse."

Crucially, some people need blood transfusions for life including those with thalassemia, a blood disorder which destroys red blood cells, found predominantly in South Asian and Mediterranean communities.

Mr Clarke said: "It's beneficial to receive blood from someone of the same ethnicity.

"We've also seen a drop in the number of young people in our donor base and they need to step forward."

Sarah Ibrahim, a project manager for the scheme, said there were challenges in informing British Muslims about blood donation.

She said: "Quite a few Muslims think that blood donation isn't acceptable in Islam. This is a big misconception.

"But I think our main problem is that we focus on other things.

Image caption It is hoped the London campaign will go national in 2014

"As a community, we're very charitable, but there just isn't much awareness on this particular issue."

Dr Dina Saleh, a trainee GP assisting the campaign, agreed.

"Often people aren't aware of the need to give blood until a loved one has a bleed in pregnancy or a car accident. I've often found Muslims or Asians signing up to become donors after such incidences."

That was the case for mother-of-two, Ula Sakr, who signed up after she experienced complications in her pregnancy which involved a caesarean section and led to her haemorrhaging.

She said: "I lost four litres of blood. If it wasn't for someone else's blood, I wouldn't be alive now. So I'm very grateful."

Mrs Sakr's twin girls are now seven months old.

"I'm certainly going to teach them the importance of donating blood," she said.

"My family are originally Lebanese and I don't feel British Arabs really think about this matter. Yet I'd say my generation are now trying to do their bit."

Young Planners was initially unsure of the response it would receive from the Muslim community but it is now optimistic the campaign will go national.

Ms Ibrahim said: "Other mosques outside London want to get involved in our initiative.

"So we hope this becomes a national project next year with cities across the UK participating on 14th June 2014."

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