Needed supplies en route to Zimbabwe hospital network

A 20-foot container loaded with close to $300,000 worth of medical supplies and over-the-counter medicines left HPIC’s distribution centre today destined for Harare, Zimbabwe.

“Our partner ZACH (the Zimbabwean Association of Church-related Hospitals) has 132 hospitals in their national network and will distribute the supplies according to needs expressed by the hospitals,” said Glen Shepherd, President of HPIC. The container was filled with items on the national needs list.

This is the first shipment of eight containers to the ZACH national network of hospitals in Zimbabwe over the next three years. The three-year project is made possible by a grant from the CHARIS Foundation.

“This will enhance the excellent work done by ZACH,” Glen said. “The hospitals are run by dozens of Christian denominations in the country and together, they provide more than 60 per cent of the health care. This project will help ZACH member hospitals cope with shortages of much needed medicines and supplies.”

HPIC has had a variety of projects and partners in Zimbabwe over the last two decades, including working directly with three member-hospitals of ZACH. For example, last week a major shipment of medicines was sent to Karanda Hospital, another member of ZACH thanks to a group of donors in Ontario.

In June, Glen Shepherd travelled to Zimbabwe to meet with partners in this ZACH project and with other partners to discuss bringing HPIC’s Mother-Child Health Kit to Zimbabwe. In addition, Glen met with the Deputy Minister of Health for Zimbabwe and officials with the Medicines Control Authority for Zimbabwe (MCAZ), responsible for all medicines entering the country. The purpose of these meetings was to ensure that HPIC has a good grasp of the needs and the current situation of partners in the country.

Syrian man can smile again thanks to treatment

A Syrian man in his early 20s was injured during the civil war in his country when a bomb hit his neighbourhood. Shrapnel had struck his neck and made him a quadriplegic.

“I was asked to see this patient because he ‘always looks so down and never smiles,’ ” wrote Dr. Saleem Al-Nuaimi in a report to HPIC. The psychiatric resident from Edmonton travelled in June to Turkey and Syria with the group Canadian Relief for Syria to provide psychiatric care and treatment to refugees.  “I assessed him and it was quite clear that he suffered from major depression.”

Dr. Al-Nuaimi had applied to HPIC for a Special Physician Request package of medicines he would need for his medical mission. Pharmascience and Teva provided over $6,000 worth of psychiatric medicines to Dr. Al-Nuaimi.

The young man was given an antidepressant donated to HPIC by Pharmascience. “It usually takes weeks to see the full benefit of antidepressants, but he had immediate benefits with improved sleep. A few days later his appetite had improved. Most importantly, he was able to smile again,” recalled the doctor.

In total, Dr. Al-Naimi was able to treat 30 Syrians suffering from various mental health problems.

“Syrian refugees are at high risk of mental illness due to traumatic experiences and adjustment difficulties. Many refugees also have suffered traumatic disability,” according to Dr. Al-Nuaimi, who added that not enough is being done to address the enormous mental health burden facing these refugees.

The Special Physician Request medicines helped raised awareness about mental health issues in the community and in training efforts. “With access to new psychotropic medications,” Dr. Al-Nuaimi wrote in his report to HPIC, “the community benefits from increased awareness about mental disorders in general, reducing stigma and encouraging people with mental illness to access mental health services and obtain treatment. We are working with local health professionals to enhance their recognition of mental disorders as well.”

Dr. Al-Nuaimi is continuing to serve Syrian refugees through providing consultation via Skype from his home in Edmonton.

Interviewed by CBC when he returned to Canada, Dr. Al-Nuaimi told CBC that he understands his impact may not seem significant, particularly while the death toll continues to rise in Syria, but says that “no matter how small the difference is, it’s still a difference.”

CBC story can be found here:


Afghanistan’s pharmaceutical supply chain improved through HPIC project

Improving access to medicine and delivering quality medicines were the two main objectives of HPIC’s project in Afghanistan, which ended June 30.

The Capacity Building and Access to Medicine project was funded by the Canadian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Development and was done in partnership with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health.

“Over the course of the project, we provided 306,423 treatments and improved Afghanistan’s pharmaceutical supply chain,” said Maryanne Mutch, HPIC’s Executive Director, Programs. “This was done through training personnel, improving inventory management systems, developing and implementing standard operating procedures, developing tools and purchasing much-needed equipment.”

Some examples of the project’s improvements in capacity include helping hospitals forecast their medicine needs and monitor usage, testing twice as many medicines entering the country, almost doubling the capacity of the Central Medical Stores facility, and increasing the efficiency and knowledge of pharmacists at nine partner hospitals and clinics in Kabul.

A major advancement was guiding the Central Medical Stores and the Pharmaceutical Donations Office (both departments of the Ministry of Public Health working at the national level) in the move from paper-based systems to working with customized digital databases.

“This was the most complex and largest-scale project HPIC has managed in our almost 25-year history,” said Glen Shepherd, President of HPIC. “We are proud of our team in Kabul and Montreal and what they were able to accomplish over the last four years.”

“Medicines are reaching more patients, staff in the Afghan health system feel better equipped to do their job and encouraged by the support we offered,” Mutch said. “Ultimately, accessing good quality medicine means that Afghans have a better quality of life, and higher life expectancy. There is also less pressure on the overall health system.”

The Afghan project was supported by 30 Canadian healthcare companies who donated close to $5 million in medicines, natural health products, and medical supplies to 9 partner hospitals and clinics in Kabul.

HPIC’s team is working to apply the tools and features of the successful Afghan project to new project proposals. “We feel that our Capacity Building and Access to Medicines project could be adapted to benefit other communities around the word,” said Shepherd.

Issuu Version: Infographic: Strengthening Health Systems; Improving Access to Medicines

PDF Version: HPIC Infographic Strengthening Health Systems

Miraculous healing of two little brothers

Dr. Mallory Chavannes and her team were able to see about 650 children in the towns around Gracias, Honduras when they went on a medical mission in April carrying 10 Physician Travel Packs provided by HPIC.

Of all those children, two stood out in her memory. Dr. Chavannes wrote about these two little boys, aged 12 and 7, in her post-trip report to HPIC.

“Looking at them, you would have thought they were 8 and 3, considering how small they were. They had been abandoned by their mother and were in the care of their father and grandfather,” Dr. Chavannes wrote.

“They had a very rare skin condition called Xeroderma Pigmentosum. This is a genetic condition which affects the skin, depriving it of its natural protection. It places the children at higher risk for cancer from sun exposure. They also are prone to skin ulcerations and corneal abrasions.

“Infections of the skin ulcers can be very problematic. They actually had been lucky to see a dermatologist in Gracias, but they could not afford any therapy. In Canada, they would have been treated with high dose retinoic acid or with 5-FU.

“However, it just so happens this year that the Physician Travel Packs came with multiple bottles of replenishing eye drops. We usually do not have many indications to use these in paediatrics. However, these were perfect for the boys!

“We managed to find a garbage bag and filled it with eye drops to protect their eyes from corneal abrasions (which can lead to blindness). We also gave them tubes of Polysporin and antibiotic cream to protect their ulcerating skin.

“Combined with sunscreen from our own personal supplies, these boys had enough medication for at least a year to protect them from the sun, keep their wounds from getting infected and protect their eyes.

“It really felt like a miracle that we had the chance to meet these boys and to actually provide medications that they needed,” she wrote.

“This trip would definitely not be the same without the donations of medicine from HPIC’s donors,” Dr. Chavannes wrote in her report. “For some of these children, it is obvious that the timeliness of our presence, combined with the antibiotics, is a life-saving event. It is clear that a young baby affected with pneumonia can suffer severe consequences. Also, considering how difficult it is to fundraise and buy medication at full price for these kinds of missions, it is indispensable to have organizations like HPIC combined with donations from companies for us to be able to deliver care abroad.”

Global Medical Brigades equipped with PTPs

Canadian students going on medical missions with Global Medical Brigades will now be able to carry HPIC’s Physician Travel Pack to complement their Global Brigade Box.

“We are thrilled to be working with Global Medical Brigades in this partnership,” said Claudia Sighomnou, Director of HPIC’s Physician Travel Pack program. “We believe that students will be better equipped for their medical missions. In addition, donors will receive a charitable tax receipt for PTP contributions.”

Global Brigades is the world’s largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization. Since 2004, Global Brigades has mobilized tens of thousands of university students and professionals through skill-based programs that work in partnership with community members to improve quality of life in under resourced regions while respecting local culture.

The mission of Global Medical Brigades is to provide comprehensive health services in rural communities with limited access to healthcare by having volunteers work alongside local licensed medical professionals. Their current focus is Ghana, Honduras, Nicaragua

and Panama.  There are several chapters of Global Medical Brigades at campuses across Canada.

The Physician Travel Pack, or PTP, is a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies that can provide up to 600 treatments. Canadian pharmaceutical and healthcare companies donate the contents according to the World Health Organization Guidelines for Medicine Donations.

Each PTP is valued at around $5,000. HPIC requests a contribution fee of $575 per PTP to help partially cover the costs of running this program.

For a limited time and with help from a donor, HPIC is encouraging first time partners to take a PTP by lowering the contribution fee from $575 to $475.

How do you get a Brigade Box/PTP if you are a member of Global Medical Brigades? Just go to the custom Global Medical Brigades PTP Application page:



Every patient has a story

Sometimes treating one patient means that a whole family is helped, even an entire community.

This was an insight of Dr. Hélène Thibault who carried a Physician Travel Pack to Anse à Veau, Haiti in early May. Dr. Thibault went with a team from the University of Moncton for a Humanitarian Mission to Haiti.

During her two weeks in Haiti, Dr. Thibault worked two days at the local hospital and participated in mobile clinics. She estimates that she saw more than 260 patients.

“Each patient had a unique and touching story,” she wrote in her report to HPIC. “Our cook had tears in her eyes when we gave her medicine to treat her high blood pressure and an acid reflux problem. A little girl we treated for an infection of her navel would hold my hands when she saw me in the street.

“An elderly man who was thin and didn’t know his age, had multiple wounds and spoke a hard-to-understand Creole. When he was treated, he flashed us a striking smile and his eyes lit up.

“During one of the mobile clinics we entered into an old church to find 200 people waiting for us hoping to access free medical care,” Dr. Thibault reported.

I know these patients would want to say: “Mesi en pile!” (with a big smile!)

HPIC attending Prime Minister’s Global Summit on Maternal-Child Health

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hosting an international summit May 28-30 in Toronto to address the health of children, newborns and mothers.

“We are honoured to be invited by our Prime Minister to this event bringing together global leaders and Canadian experts on this issue with the goal of saving every mother and every child,” said HPIC’s President Glen Shepherd.

Maryanne Mutch, HPIC’s Executive Director, Programs, will be representing HPIC at the three-day event. The needs of women and children is a cross-cutting theme in HPIC’s Capacity Building and Access to Medicines project in Kabul, Afghanistan, funded by DFATD. The CBAM project, begun in 2010, is HPIC’s most ambitious and successful initiative. By increasing access to good quality medicines and supplies, HPIC has worked to improve the quality of life for all Afghans, including women and children.

The Afghanistan project had two key strategies. The first was to deliver quality medicines to public hospitals in Kabul as a humanitarian response to pressing needs. The second was to improve long-term access to medicines by working on Afghanistan’s pharmaceutical supply chain.

A year into the CBAM project, HPIC’s Board of Directors identified the health of mothers and children as an overarching priority for the relief and development organization focused on access to medicine.

Since then HPIC has completed a number of projects aimed at reducing child and maternal mortality. In 2012 and 2013, HPIC partnered with the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada to offer life-saving workshops to Zimbabwean doctors and midwives to learn practical skills to save babies and mothers during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period.

In 2013, HPIC helped sponsor the publication of the Neonatal Handbook, intended for Zimbabwean doctors and nurses. This handbook is also available free of charge on HPIC’s website in the hope of placing life-saving knowledge in the hands of healthcare workers in vulnerable communities.

Most recently, HPIC developed the Mother-Child Health Kit. “The purpose of this kit is to put the basic tools and medicines into the hands of frontline health workers to save mothers and babies,” Shepherd said. By the end of 2014, an estimated 160 kits will have been provided to partners in Benin, Haiti, Malawi, Niger, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“We are looking forward to what will develop from the Prime Minister’s Summit this week,” Shepherd said. “We hope that the issue of maternal and child mortality will remain a global priority. It is within our grasp to do something very impactful for the children of the world: save their mothers.”


HPIC Launching Response to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

An outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa has prompted HPIC to launch a coordinated response with its partners. This outbreak is the first of its kind in the area, and is considered a serious threat to the people of Guinea, Liberia, and potentially Sierra Leone.

As of April 9th, a total of 158 confirmed cases, including 101 deaths, have been officially reported in Guinea, as well as 5 confirmed cases and 20 suspected cases in Liberia. Given the incubation period of up to three weeks and the challenges of containing this outbreak, more cases will likely be identified in the coming weeks.

In response to this outbreak, HPIC is working closely with Plan Canada to identify detailed needs in areas of medicine, medical supplies, and protective equipment needed to support case management and infection control in primary healthcare facilities. In the coming days, HPIC will mobilize its efforts to coordinate gift-in-kind donations from its healthcare industry partners to ensure that critical medicine and medical supplies reach the affected areas as quickly as possible.

You can help place urgently needed medicines and medical supplies into the hands of first responders on the ground. Please consider donating to HPIC’s Emergency Relief Fund to support our ongoing work in situations such as these.