New campaign launched to encourage organ donation among BAME communities

Dr Ismal Mohamed, Consultant Transplant Surgeon of Royal London Hospital, on BAME patients and organ transplant Pic: Tower Hamlet Council

A new campaign has been launched to encourage members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to register as organ donors to prevent unnecessary loss of lives.

The campaign, launched by Tower Hamlets Council in collaboration with Kidney Research UK and Barts Health NHS Trust, draws attention to the fact that those of a BAME background will wait twice as long as a white person for a suitable organ donation.

Organ donation can often be a taboo subject, largely due to religious differences and cultural misconceptions surrounding the issue.

Although many black and Asian patients are able to receive a transplant from a white donor, a tissue-type match from a BAME donor is best as they have a lower likelihood of being rejected.

Particularly targeted at the Bangladeshi community, the campaign aims to increase awareness of the risks of kidney disease, and its link to diabetes. It also helps residents learn how to manage diabetes properly and engage families in conversations about becoming organ donors.

Statistics on kidney disease and the BAME communities Pic: Nai-Yu Chen Data: Kidney Research UK

According to Kidney Research UK, an organisation that trains volunteer peer educators to talk to their community about kidney health, kidney failure is up to five times more common in people from BAME communities, while Asian people with diabetes are 10 times more likely to suffer from kidney failure compared to Caucasians.

Furthermore, over a third of people in the UK waiting for a kidney transplant are from BAME communities, yet people from these communities make up less than 4% of the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Fartun Dahir, volunteer and local resident in need of a donor Pic: Tower Hamlets Council

Fartun Dahir, a volunteer and local resident in need of a donor, said: “Before being diagnosed [with kidney failure], I was a healthy person with no history of family illness. I’ve been on dialysis for the past three years and I am still waiting for a suitable donor.”

Dahir, who hasn’t seen her family in Saudi Arabia since 2016 as she can’t be away for more than four days, said: “Donation is so important in our community as there are many people just like me, waiting for a donor on a dialysis machine. If you knew you needed a kidney, would you say no?”

Approximately 300 adults from the BAME community in east London are waiting for a kidney transplant, while around 18,000 people in Tower Hamlets are living with diabetes.

Join the NHS Register to sign up as an organ donor, or email to become a volunteer.

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