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Thicker Than Blood

Blood donation unit (illustration) Photo: Visual/Photo
Blood donation unit (illustration) Photo: Visual/Photo
 
Protest in the works - archive Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Protest in the works - archive Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
 
 

Ethiopians outraged over blood disposal

Ethiopian communities respond with rage at Channel 2 report that revealed blood donated by Ethiopians is frozen and disposed of. 'There's no difference between my blood and the blood of someone else' says chairman of Ethiopian students union. Mada: 'These procedures are handed down by the Health Ministry, and are accepted all over the world'

Meital Yasur-Beit Or
Published: 11.01.06, 10:24 / Israel News

Tuesday's report by Channel 2 news regarding blood donations given by Ethiopians, which are frozen and then disposed of, drew a very strong reaction from the Ethiopian community.

 

"We fight and die in the army, go on to study, but that is not enough. It's inconceivable that a person comes to donate blood and is tricked into thinking that he is saving another life," says Gadi Yevrakan, a member of the Ethiopian community from Rehovot.

 

"He sits, a needle enters his body, a considerable amount of blood is drawn from him, and yet the minute he turns his head they toss his blood to the garbage."

 

Yevrakan, 25, a law student and lieutenant in the reserves, said that the community intends to hold a massive protest on Sunday against the way their blood is used.

 

"It can't go on like this. I think that in an enlightened country there shouldn't be any difference between one citizen and another. I didn't choose to be born this color, but I'm proud of the choice that God made for me, and I'm proud to be Jewish. The Israeli public needs to protest what its country is doing and join us in protest.

 

"This is a grave injustice, not only to the Ethiopian community but to everyone. Every Jew should be proud of the Ethiopian community – a symbol of Zionism, a national symbol, a symbol of valor."

 

Tal Zakul, 27, who heads the Ethiopian students union, is also angry. "It is extremely offensive; I don't even know how to express this anger," he says.

 

"I meet with youths at boarding schools and talk to them about moving up in life and how important integration is. Every chance I get I explain to them that only a shred of society is racist, and that they shouldn't generalize the Israeli public. But what do I say to them tomorrow? How do I answer their questions when racist discrimination has again been proven, that they are truly being labeled by the color of their skin so it makes no difference how hard they try?

 

"It's very saddening that we are still being discriminated against because the color of our skin is slightly different. I don't see any difference between my blood and the blood of another and there is no reason to throw out our blood because they are worried that the entire community is infected. Whoever threw out Ethiopian blood is infected with a far more dangerous disease - racism. If the decision does indeed originate from the Ministry of Health we will begin legal proceedings and even petition the High Court of Justice."

 

International regulations

Magen David Adom spokesman Yeruham Mendola responded to the claims:"The guidelines set by the Ministry of Health determines that anyone who was born, or who lived for over a year since 1977 in central Africa, southeast Asia or the Carribean islands, or has spent over six months in Britain, or was in France, Ireland or Portugal for over 10 years - can chose not to donate blood, or donate blood, which is then marked, and know that it will not be used for transfusions."

 

Magen David Adom requires donors to fill out a questionnaire prior to donating blood.

 

Dr. Vered Yahalom, deputy chief of the Magen David Adom blood bank, addressed the report broadcast Tuesday: "We must not forget that blood donations exist to save lives, and the guidelines set by the Health Ministry are designed to guarantee that the donor units will be as safe as possible. Anyone who has been exposed to numerous diseases, including Malaria or Mad Cow Disease, may endanger the recipient.

 

"The testing the blood goes through is not enough since some of these diseases have a 'window' in which they are undetectable, like HIV, where even a test cannot discover if the blood is contaminated. These guidelines are not an Israeli invention and they are accepted throughout the entire modern world."

 

Miri Chason contributed to the report

 

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