Durban – The 19th World Transplant Games 2013 kicked off today in Durban amid revelations that some 4 000 patients face a bleak future while awaiting transplants in South Africa, as only 0.2% of the population are registered as organ donors.
In his official opening address on Sunday night, eThekwini Metro Municipality Mayor James Nxumalo said organ donation in South Africa remained a sensitive subject to many people, especially because of the cultural sensitivities that are associated with it.
“We are hopeful that hosting the 19th World Transplant Games 2013 will allow our people to see the practical demonstration of how organ donation could give a second chance to a loved one. Hopefully this will lead to a change in certain perceptions about organ donation.”
Organ Donor Foundation Executive Director, Samantha Volschenk, said that less than 600 transplants are performed in South Africa annually due to the acute shortage of organ donors.
“There is a general lack of awareness, and cultural and religious barriers to organ donation. Some 4 000 patients are languishing in various hospitals waiting for a miracle – to get a donor,” Volschenk said.
She said that only 0.2% of the South African population are registered organ donors. “Our target for 2013 is to sign up 50 000 organ donors, hence our support for these games.”
Nxumalo made an impassioned plea to the people of South Africa to register as organ donors. He said the World Transplant Games “represent hope and triumph of the human spirit”.
“They serve to highlight to us the importance of organ donation in saving lives and giving an individual a second chance to live a full productive life. It’s about time we changed our perception about organ donation. I plead for more organ donors to come forward and give the gift of life to another human being.”
At the same event, a new postage stamp, specially designed by the Post Office for the World Transplant Games 2013 to raise awareness about the acute shortages of organ donors in South Africa, was unveiled.
Johan van Wyk, Post Office Senior Manager for Philatelic Services said the special postage stamp was designed by South African artist Peter Sibanda.
“We had to get approval from Cabinet for us to get this project off the ground. We are extremely hopeful that the postage stamp will add impetus in raising awareness about organ donation in South Africa and throughout the world.”
Nxumalo added that these games signify more than just sport, “but they represent life – highlighting the true life stories of the athletes’ achievements”. He urged the media to give prominence to the games as part of raising awareness. – SAnews.gov.za