A NETWORK of volunteers is being enlisted to persuade members of the South Asian community to sign up as organ donors after figures showed that fewer than 1% of people on the register are from this background.

Up to 20 trained volunteers will speak to people of different faith and cultural groups about organ donation in a bid to try to increase the numbers willing to donate their organs.

Only 1512 people out of the more than two million Scots currently on the NHS Organ Donor Register are from South Asian communities, even although there is a higher prevalence of conditions such as diabetes, kidney and heart disease.

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The project is being funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Kidney Research UK, which has encouraged almost 1000 people from these backgrounds to join the register using a similar model elsewhere in the UK.

Neerja Jain, Health Improvement Projects Manager at Kidney Research UK said: "Kidney failure affects the Asian community up to five times as much as the Caucasian community.

"A kidney from someone of the same ethnic group is likely to lead to a better matched organ sooner, which is why it's so important to raise awareness of the need for organ donation among these communities."

A total of 44 people from South Asian communities in Scotland are waiting on a life-saving transplant.

Dr Rajan Madhok, who is working closely with the Scottish Government and Kidney Research on the project and is helping recruit the peer educators, said: "Organ donation is an often taboo subject within Black, Asian and Ethnic minority communities, largely due to the misconceptions surrounding the issue.

"Ultimately it's an individual choice, but we want to ensure people have the right information. There's a huge shortage of compatible donors, but this can be turned around through education, and projects like this that take the important organ donation message into the heart of communities."