More than 150 members of the Indian community in Northern Ireland were left frustrated after being told they couldn’t donate blood during a camp in Belfast because they were born in India and would need to undergo a malaria test.
The camp was organised on September 23 by the charity organisation Sudarshanam after nine months of planning and discussions with the Northern Ireland Transfusion Service (NITS). Organisers told Hindustan Times the issue of place of birth or the malaria test was never raised during the preparations.
Trustee Srikant Ganapati said on Wednesday: “People came from various parts of Northern Ireland, some also from England. It was the first such effort by any Asian organisation here but at the last moment, we were asked if we were born in India, or had visited India.
“Even a 62-year-old Indian who never visited India for the last 58 years was prevented from donating blood. Everyone was so enthusiastic, took time off work. Most of them were IT professionals and doctors, but had to go away without donating blood.”
There was no response from NITS but some reports said it was investigating the incident.
“It was very frustrating, but we will not give up. They often say that 97% people don’t donate blood, but when we wanted to, they prevented us. We will wait for the investigation’s outcome,” Ganapati said.
Donor eligibility criteria were not clear, the organisers said. There was no mention in correspondence over nine months or on the NITS website that people born in India cannot donate blood.
Belfast-based Sudarshanam, founded in 2012, is registered with Britain’s Charity Commission. Its objectives include educating people about Indian culture and advancing community development through volunteering initiatives.