Birmingham blood donors join attempt to break world record

By ITV News Central Journalist, Zahra Fatima

More than 100 people in Birmingham have donated blood, joining an attempt to break the world record for the most donations in one calendar day.

Who Is Hussain, a Muslim social justice charity, is trying to rally 50,000 blood donors in 20 countries across six continents for the record attempt on Saturday 27 August.

Blood donation centres have been set up across parts of the UK today, including Birmingham, London, Leeds, Luton, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen - as the NHS says donors are urgently needed to replenish low stocks

The campaign, supported by NHS Blood and Transplant, aims to raise awareness among ethnic minority communities where blood donation rates are low.

More than 38,000 people around the world have signed up for the record attempt so far, with all 600 appointments available in the UK booked out and five times that amount of interest recorded.

ITV Central spoke to one first time donor, Falah Atshan at the Birmingham blood bank earlier today.

He said: "We are trying to donate as much as we could for a noble reason, for the memory of Imam Hussain, who was a fighter for social justice.

"The second main reason is to save lives. After the pandemic, the donation level was low, and we try to donate as much as we could to save as many as we can".

Blood donors pictured here at the donation centre in Birmingham.

Why are more blood donors needed?

The campaign aims to save 150,000 lives at a time when blood supplies globally are dangerously low.

In October last year, the UK sought 100,000 new donors to meet rising demand. NHS Blood and Transplant says it needs nearly 400 new donors a day to save the lives of those who suffer blood loss through accidents, childbirth or have a medical condition such as haemophilia.

There is also an increasing need for more ethnically matched blood, as more people from BAME backgrounds need regular blood transfusions to treat conditions like thalassaemia and sickle cell disease.  

However, part of the problem in England lies with the fact that there are not enough people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds donating blood.

Statistics show that fewer than 6% of blood donated last year was from BAME communities and only 1.5% of current blood donors are black.

The charity say they hope to challenge some of the fears and phobias around blood donation from these communities that may have prevented action in the past.

They say so far more than 26% of those who have signed up across the country to give blood are first time donors.

The campaign, supported by NHS Blood and Transplant, aims to raise awareness among communities where blood donation rates are low. Credit: Who is Hussain

What will giving blood mean?

Just one unit of blood can help to save three lives.

The non-profit organisation will be partnering with NHS Blood and Transplant to ensure blood donation is a safe and fully regulated, conducted by healthcare professionals.

Altaf Kazi, of NHS Blood and Transplant, said, "Thousands of lives are saved every year in England, thanks to the heroism of individuals willing to donate their blood - many who have overcome their own fears to do something truly life-changing.”

"We're proud to be partnering with Who Is Hussain to help them reach their ambitious goal, to support those who depend on these life-changing donations.

"Donation is safe and only takes an hour of your time to save up to three lives."

The current world record is 35,000 units of blood donated in a single day, set in India in 2020.

A single blood donation gives one unit, or one pint, which is a 10th of the body's total and is quickly replaced.

"Whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind" (Qur'an 5:32).

Giving just one unit of blood can save up to three lives

Muntazir Rai, Director of Who is Hussain said: "We are glad so many people in the region are joining #GlobalBloodHereoes around the world to break a world record and save lives.

"In our faith we are told that to ‘save one life is to save all of humanity’.

"That could not be more true in the simple act of giving blood. Blood donation is a universal act that unites people around the world.

"I'm incredibly proud of our committed team of volunteers who've helped organise blood drives in 20 countries, all inspired by Hussain ibn Ali and the values he stood for - justice, compassion and dignity."

Donors gathered at this blood bank at Birmingham New street today to try and break a world record and save lives Credit: Who is Hussain

Who was Hussain?

Hussain was a 7th century social reformer born in the city of Madinah.

His mother Fatima was the daughter of Prophet Muhammad.

He is widely revered by muslims and non-muslims alike for the principled stand he took against oppression.

His refusal to give allegiance to the tyrant of his time culminated in the battle of Karbala in Iraq. Hussain, along with most of his family and a small number of supporters were surrounded by an army many times larger in a barren desert.

Despite every effort to subdue them through bribes, threats, and deprivation of water, Hussain and those with him stood their ground and were brutally massacred, mutilated and beheaded. Only the women, young children and the sick were spared and even they were imprisoned afterwards.

This event was received throughout the world with outrage and ultimately led to a social reform movement that persists until today. His life, his message and his sacrifice is commemorated each year in the month of Muharram (the first month of the Islamic calendar).

In the words of Hussain: “those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves.”

What is his significance today?

Inspired by his legacy and final calls for justice, people have been inspired to go out and give blood in his name.

“The most generous person is the one who gives to those who do not expect his help.” (Hussain ibn Ali)

"Whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind" (Qur'an 5:32).

Thus, through initiatives like this, they hope to continue his message of social justice and standing up for the oppressed.