Is my blood not good enough for you?

Published: December 11, 2011

Pakistani blood cannot be used as it is on the list of risky countries.

I was casually walking in the Ibn Batuta Mall with a friend when I saw the Dubai Blood Donation Centre kiosk. The moment I saw it, I decided that I had to donate blood. A couple of girls sat behind the desk with hundreds of forms, while other volunteers walked around asking people to donate blood. 

My friend had to look after his daughter, so he decided to wait and watch while I went to donate blood. I walked towards the desk where the females were sitting. They were busy with other donors asking different questions and filling out the forms as I waited for my turn.

In a few minutes, the man ahead of me was done and my turn came.

“I want to donate blood,” I smiled.

“That’s why we are here sir,” she smiled back. “Please give me some details about yourself before we take blood from you.”

I started answering her questions as she frantically wrote on the form.

Name… age… blood group… any medical condition… and then came an unexpected question.

“Have you been to any of these places in the last two months?” She asked. “Pakistan?”

“Yes,” I paused for a second before answering “I was there a month ago.”

“Sorry, sir – we cannot take your blood,” came the crass reply.

“Next,” she called loudly, ignoring my look of confusion.

“Excuse me?” I interrupted. I was shocked.

“We cannot take your blood sir. Pakistan is on the list of non-approved, dangerous countries.”

“I am standing in front of you. I look perfectly healthy, and I can assure you, I am perfectly healthy. I am running around, completely fit. Millions of people living in Pakistan are healthy and donating blood every day to those in need.”

“It’s a policy issue, sir. We cannot take blood from you.”

“When someone donates blood, you don’t just put it in another body without testing it, right? You can take my blood and check it before it is used.”

“I’m sorry, sir. Now, please excuse me. Other people are waiting.”

I stood there flummoxed and completely motionless for some time. Discussion was closed. Pakistani blood is filthy and dangerous. I walked away from the kiosk, shoulders slumped, completely defeated and humiliated.

Once again, my identity had failed me.

I went home, and tried to brush aside the fact that Pakistani blood isn’t good enough, but the girl’s words kept echoing in my head. I sat down on the World Wide Web to understand the reasons for this ‘bloody discrimination’ and I discovered that it boils down to malaria. There is an entire list of Malaria affected countries, the residents of which, as per the New York Blood Centre’s issued Malaria Map, carry ‘risky’ blood.

If I put my victimised patriotic sentiments aside, to an extent this discrimination can be acceptable, but there are a couple of questions that my mind fails to answer. For one, the lady at the kiosk should have been equipped with necessary information about why Pakistani blood cannot be accepted and should have handled the matter with more earnestness and courtesy. Why she did not have the correct information, is beyond me. She mentioned nothing about malaria – in fact she made me feel dirty, disgusting and completely handicapped.

I am not a doctor; I don’t have the technical know-how of what, how and why, but I need to understand that why, when I go to Pakistan and donate blood, the same blood is accepted without any concerns? How can this blood, which has a malaria risk in one country become totally safe in another one? Is human anatomy any different in Pakistan? Why does the same condition not apply to US citizens as there are 1.2 million people carrying HIV in their blood there? Or in Italy where 140,000 people have AIDS? Why is this test not based on an individual’s blood and the contamination in it, if any?

I am but an ordinary man from an ordinary country facing extraordinary circumstances. I am extra-sensitive and generally believe that the world is out there conspiring against me and my country. When I am stopped from making a small contribution to the world, I get agitated. When my blood is refused without giving me any proper explanation, I do get frustrated. At times like these I remember the words of Sahir Ludhyanvi:

Khoon phir khoon hai tapkay ga tou jam jaaye ga

Zulm phir zulm hai barhta hai tou mit jaata hai


Sami Saayer

A Dubai based Pakistani looking for excuses to write.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.