India Has A Shortage Of Blood. Here's How Facebook Is Trying To Help.

"People are using Facebook literally thousands of times a week to look for blood donors."

A new feature on Facebook aims to make it easier for people in India to find and donate blood, showing that social media can be a powerful tool for good. 

According to CNN, India has a 10 percent shortage of blood, with more than 38,000 blood donations reportedly required every day to balance it. The shortage means that patients are often responsible for replacing blood in banks or hospitals, with some using the internet to find donors.

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"Our teams have identified a real need in India," Hema Budaraju, a Facebook product manager, told CNN. "People are using Facebook literally thousands of times a week to look for blood donors."

Budaraju's own family used the telephone to reach out for similar help five years ago when her father needed platelet transfusions for cancer. Facebook aims to raise awareness and facilitate this search, which is already happening "in an unstructured way." The site consulted health experts, nonprofits, potential donors, and Facebook users when designing the feature.

Image via Facebook

Beginning on October 1, which is India's National Blood Donor Day, Facebook users in the country can sign up to be a blood donor through the Android and mobile web versions of the site — which are the most used by India's 201 million active Facebook users. Then, over the next few weeks, people or organizations who are in need of blood can create a request, and Facebook will notify nearby blood donors, who can then contact the requester.

"Our research suggests that when people have better information and tools, they're more willing to donate blood — and it's easier for people who need blood to find donors," Bujaraju and Ritesh Mehta, head of programs for South Asia, wrote in a news post about the tool.

Image via Facebook

Sonu Singh, a manager at the Rotary Blood Bank in Delhi, told CNN that India has no central blood collection agency, and common myths — such as that vegetarians cannot give blood — prevent some people from donating. The country also has the lowest percentage of female blood donors in the world, at six percent.

Blood supply varies by area, with The Hindu reporting that 16 states faced a shortage, while 18 had sufficient or surplus blood. The 10 percent nationwide shortage between 2015-16 is an improvement over the 17 percent shortage from 2013-14.

A feature such as this, on such a widely used service as Facebook, can hopefully make a big difference in shrinking that gap even further. Users in India can go to facebook.com/donateblood to learn more and sign up.

(H/T: Mashable)

Cover image via Shutterstock / thanongsak kongtong.

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