The first World Blood Donor Day was observed in 2004, which was followed by its designation as an annual global event by the fifty-eighth World Health Assembly in 2005. World Blood Donor Day is now celebrated each year throughout the world on 14 June to raise awareness of the importance of blood donation and to recognize the contribution of voluntary unpaid blood donors in saving lives and improving health.
World Blood Donor Day has a further purpose: to create wider awareness throughout the world about the need for availability and appropriate use of safe blood and blood products, and the need for many more people to make a commitment to regular voluntary unpaid blood donation.
The date of 14 June is the birthday of Karl Landsteiner (1868–1943), an Austrian biologist and physician, considered to be the “founder” of modern blood transfusion. Landsteiner discovered the ABO blood groups in 1901, developed the modern system of classification of blood groups, and identified, in 1937, together with Alexander S. Wiener, the Rhesus factor, thus enabling physicians to transfuse blood without endangering a patient’s life.
World Blood Donor Day provides a springboard for blood safety programmes and campaigns throughout the year, as well as wider activities to strengthen blood transfusion services. It is designed to complement rather than replace the national blood donor days or weeks that are organized in a number of countries. Some are held at the same time as World Blood Donor Day while others take place at different times of the year.