On the Ground in Nicaragua

It was a story that could not have ended any better for Roger Mailhot and his team working in a remote village in northern Nicaragua.

Two adolescent boys had been suffering from pneumonia for more than one week when Mailhot’s team arrived at the rural health clinic. Local physicians had been treating the boys with amoxicillin, but the bacteria had proved to be resistant to the treatment. With no other antibiotics available on hand to treat the patients, the survival of the two boys, according to physicians, was in question.

Fortunately, Mailhot’s team was able to intervene by treating the boys with Ceftin, a medication donated by GlaxoSmithKline in the team’s HPIC travel pack. Ultimately, this new treatment proved to be successful in curing these two resistant cases. As Mailhot reports, “the company that [gave] this medication may have saved two lives.”

These two boys were just two of the 1542 patients – including 562 children – that Mailhot’s team were able to treat during their nine working days in the region. Other conditions treated by the physicians included parasite infections, respiratory problems, general nutritional deficiencies and gastro-intestinal problems. According to Mailhot, many of the medications required to treat these and other conditions are unavailable through the Nicaraguan basic subsidized health care program.

While Mailhot’s team faced long days, high temperatures and lengthy travel times in order to treat these patients, Mailhot reports that “…the smile and the facial expressions of gratitude that accompany the ‘gratia'” made the entire endeavour worthwhile.

HPIC “key partner” in Afghanistan, according to CIDA Minister

Health Partners International of Canada is a key partner with the Government of Canada in the government’s development work in Afghanistan, the Honourable Beverley Oda, said at the launch of HPIC’s Capacity Building and Access to Medicines (CBAM) project in Afghanistan Nov. 30 at HPIC’s distribution centre in Mississauga.

“Afghanistan’s health care system is in need of repair,” Bev Oda, Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, said in her remarks at the launch. “Presently, Afghanistan faces some of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world and the world’s highest infant and maternal mortality rates, after Sub Saharan Africa. This is why Afghanistan is one of Canada’s 10 targeted countries within our G8 Maternal and Child Health Initiative.

“And I am pleased that HPIC is a key partner with the Government of Canada in that work. In 2008, the Government of Canada formed a multi-year partnership with Health Partners International of Canada.

“This partnership is not only helping Afghans receive priority medicines and medical supplies but is also enhancing the capacity of the Afghan Ministry of Public Health.”

Many of HPIC’s pharmaceutical donors attended the launch as well as media. In addition, the news went out in a press release issued by the Government of Canada (http://www.afghanistan.gc.ca/canada-afghanistan/news-nouvelles/2010/2010_11_30.aspx?lang=eng). Pharmaceutical donors to the first four shipments of medicines and supplies for the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital and Ibn-i-Sina Hospital, a large emergency hospital, were credited in a news release issued by HPIC (http://www.hpicanada.ca/news_release.cfm?nwsrlsID=169).

On the same day as the $10 million five-year project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was launched in Canada, it was also launched in Kabul, Afghanistan. The acting Minister of Public Health for Afghanistan, the Head of Aid for Canada, HPIC’s project partners and Afghan media attended.

The CBAM project’s goal is to increase access to needed medicines and supplies for Afghans, with a special emphasis on the needs of women and children. The project was developed in partnership with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). Over the course of the project, HPIC is committed to providing $25 million in medicines and hospital supplies requested by partner hospitals in Kabul. In addition, the project is working closely with the Afghan MoPH to build capacity and improve the supply chain system of pharmaceuticals at the national level through the provision of necessary training and equipment, developing working policies and procedures, and improving overall human resource capacities.

HPIC in the House of Commons

A week after Beverley Oda called Health Partners International of Canada “a key partner” in the Government of Canada’s work in Afghanistan, she mentioned HPIC in response to a question in the House of Commons Dec. 6, 2010. Here is the question and the Minister of International Cooperation’s response:

Hon. Jim Abbott (KootenayColumbia, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, Canada has stood at the forefront of the world when it comes to helping those in need. As Canadians know, our efforts in Afghanistan to improve the lives of the people have been hard fought. In the year 2000, only 9% of the population had access to primary health care. Access to medicine and supplies was virtually non-existent.

Would the Minister of International Cooperation give Canadians an update on some of the improvements we have made to help improve public health in Afghanistan?

Hon. Bev Oda (Minister of International Cooperation, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, in fact, access to health care in Afghanistan has grown, from 9% to 66%. I am pleased to tell the House that Canada is helping to get more medicine to Afghanistan to help the Afghan people through Health Partners International and Canadian generic and research-based pharmaceutical companies. We are providing antibiotics, anesthesia for surgeries, intravenous medicines and medical supplies. In fact, last year HPIC and CIDA treated more than one million people in 68 countries with the adequate medicines and medical supplies.

Afghan Minister of Public Health launches HPIC’s Afghanistan project in Kabul

The major media of Afghanistan, Dr. Suraya Dalil Afghanistan’s Acting Minister of Public Health, and the Embassy of Canada’s Head of Aid, Heather Cruden, were all on hand to officially launch HPIC’s Capacity Building and Access to Medicines project in Kabul Nov. 30.

“Canada believes that children and youth are Afghanistan’s greatest resource and that investing in their health means investing in Afghanistan’s future,” said Heather Cruden, Head of Aid to the Embassy of Canada in Afghanistan. “Canada is pleased to partner with Health Partners International of Canada on the Capacity Building and Access to Medicines project in Afghanistan as it enhances the Ministry of Public Health’s capacity to respond to the needs of Afghans by providing them with much needed access to essential, quality medicine and medical supplies.”

All components of the five-year $10 million project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency are progressing well. The project is in partnership with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health. HPIC’s Kabul staff, all of whom are Afghan professionals, are in daily contact with the partners. A children’s hospital and emergency hospital are the recipients of the first shipments of medicine and hospital supplies donated by Canadian pharmaceutical and healthcare products companies.

“This project is one of the ways that the Ministry of Public Health is acting to save lives,” said Dr. Suraya Dalil, Afghanistan’s Acting Minister of Public Health. “This donation will mean better treatment for infants and children at the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital and a decrease in mortality rates.”

The project’s goal is to support the Ministry of Public Health to ensure greater and more equitable access to priority pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for Afghans, especially women and children. HPIC is helping to build the capacity of the Afghan government and to improve access to vital pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

“We know that a major challenge in the Afghan health system is a lack of quality medicines,” said Glen Shepherd, President of HPIC. “HPIC and its Canadian donors are committed to providing $25 million Canadian wholesale value of medicines and hospital supplies requested by public hospitals in Kabul.”

The project also includes developmental activities in the pharmaceutical sector, including work with the Central Medical Stores, the Pharmaceutical Donations Office and the Drug Quality Control Laboratory. In addition, HPIC will conduct an assessment study of the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in Afghanistan.

The launch of the project in Kabul received widespread news coverage in the country and was on the evening television news of the major networks.

PHOTO CAPTION: Julia Wight (left), acting Senior Director of HPIC’s Afghanistan project, Heather Cruden (centre), Head of Aid to the Embassy of Canada in Afghanistan, and Dr. Suraya Dalil (right), Afghanistan’s Acting Minister of Public Health review a list of medicine and supplies donated by Canadian pharmaceutical and healthcare companies to Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital (IGCH).

Afghan toddler recovers with antibiotics provided by HPIC

When Shabnam was only five days old, she had serious medical problems that required her to be admitted to the hospital. She arrived at Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul with a perforated anus and a fistula.

As a result, the Afghan baby girl was unable to have normal bowel functions. Unfortunately, the required surgery could only be done once she weighed 10 kg. As a temporary solution, she had a series of surgeries.

In June 2010, when she was two and a half years old, Shabnam had to return to the hospital. This time, her colostomy site was badly infected. Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital had received a shipment of medicines and hospital supplies from Health Partners International of Canada donated by Canadian pharmaceutical and healthcare products companies. Rocephin (an antibiotic donated by Roche Canada to HPIC) was prescribed to Shabnam and she made a full recovery.

Three months after being treated for the infection, Shabnam weighed enough and was ready for the surgery that would allow her to have normal bowel functions. The surgeons were happy to have access to high-quality medicine, which is essential for patients like Shabnam both during and after surgery.

A safer work environment for Ministry of Public Health workers in Kabul

Mohammad, a skilled laborer at the Afghan Ministry of Public Health’s Central Medical Stores (CMS), related his experience and thanks to HPIC’s Kabul-based Logistics Manager: “There are lots of problems that I have faced since I first started working at the CMS 10 years ago. One of these problems is the lack of safety equipment.

“The safety material provided by HPIC has been helpful and useful. Even though these materials cost very little, we need them to work. With all the dangers we face every day at the CMS, they could save our lives if ever there is an accident.

“Once, my finger got caught underneath a heavy box and I had pain for many days. Another time, I fell off the back of a truck when we were loading goods and I injured my head. I needed to be hospitalized for two days. Even now I still have some pain from that injury.

“Do you see these marks on my hands? They are the result of touching and carrying cartons of chemicals without gloves. If I would have had safety equipment, perhaps my hands and head wouldn’t have gotten hurt.

“Thank you for providing us with this safety equipment.”

In May 2010, HPIC provided necessary safety equipment, including steel-toe boots, safety helmets, uniform coveralls and work gloves, to ensure that the staff at the Central Medical Stores are properly equipped to do their job. This is part of HPIC’s Capacity Building and Access to Medicines project in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan. The project is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.

HPIC responds to humanitarian crisis in North Africa

Photo: Reuters

Responding to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in North Africa, Health Partners International of Canada is preparing to send a shipment of medical supplies destined for Tunisia.

HPIC’s shipment will help our NGO partner on the ground to deliver crucial aid to people affected by uprisings in the region.

Since the uprising in Libya began, over 100,000 refugees have fled to Tunisia. While many of the refugees have been migrant workers, more and more Libyan families are arriving at the tent camps that provide temporary shelter. Aid agencies and emergency relief groups working at the Choucha refugee camps, 25 kilometres from the country borders expect the crisis to get worse if the violence continues and medical supplies run out in the west of Libya.

Tunisia continues to struggle with transition after its own revolution, which started in December 2010. Tunisian men, women and children, especially those living in rural zones, are in dire need of medicine and supplies.

HPIC will continue its efforts to get supplies and medicines to the people in need during this time of crisis.

Desperately needed medicines on their way for WHO Pakistan relief effort

Photo: WHO/Syed Haider

Over the last 5 years, one hospital in a town in northern Pakistan was destroyed and rebuilt. Then it was destroyed again.

Raging floods in the summer of 2010 affected 20 million people in 78 districts, and damaged or destroyed about 2 million homes and 500 health facilities. There were already 4 million internally displaced people and refugees in the country, due to fighting along the Afghan border and the earthquake in northern Pakistan in 2005.

Millions of people still have desperate needs across the country, including healthcare, according to aid agencies. Abbott Laboratories, a Canadian pharmaceutical company answered that call by generously donating over $800,000 of medicines for Health Partner’s International of Canada and its global partner to channel towards the WHO humanitarian response.

Donations of medicines received from companies like Abbott will not only provide short-term relief for the people of Pakistan, (the majority living on $2 a day) but will also help towards achieving sustainable healthcare solutions.

Dr. Khalid Bukhari, Coordinator and Team Leader for Essential Medicines for WHO Pakistan says, “Wonderful products like Prevacid are helping us to not only treat those in every province affected by the floods who are still suffering, they are allowing us to build a better healthcare system. Money that would be used to buy medicines can now go towards training doctors, nurses and pharmacists so we can equip our clinics and hospitals from within our own local communities. Our healthcare system is growing in quantity and quality, and this is all due to donations of medicines and medical supplies. We are learning to do better with what we are given. Thank you so much.”

International Women’s Day: a hard-won day of celebration in Afghanistan

Health Partners International of Canada is implementing a multi-year project in Afghanistan to increase access to medicines and to build the capacity of the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, with a special focus on the needs of women and children.

Julia Wight, acting Senior Director of the project, was in Kabul on International Women’s Day this year. “March 8th was spoken about by men and women with such admiration and interest. I was overwhelmed by the largesse of this day, particularly as it is celebrated in a country that must work hard and fight daily to maintain the progress of women’s rights,” she said. “This is a country where women are not protected by law, a country with the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world, and a country where only 15% of girls attend elementary school.”

A party was held at HPIC’s field office in Kabul “to honour Afghan women who are continuing to push through and build themselves up.” There was cake and dried fruit and discussion about women’s issues worldwide.

One of HPIC’s Afghan staff members described her experience of the day: “My family buys each other gifts and says ‘congratulations’ or ‘Happy Women’s Day’ to each other. The most exciting part is that the male members of our family cook and invite all the females for lunch or dinner.”

For her, Women’s Day is “a big movement for women – no matter where these women are from. I consider it the final stage of women’s empowerment, which will shape society and the world. It is a day to remember and to celebrate.”

She would like to see the number of women involved in the project increased, as HPIC’s project is “providing equal opportunities to both men and women.”

HPIC hosts important conference in Kabul through its CBAM project

Recommendations are made to enhance the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector in Afghanistan.

As one of the components of its Capacity Building and Access to Medicine project in Afghanistan, Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) facilitated a two-day conference in Kabul in June 2011 to present the findings of its Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Assessment Study.

The results were shared with private and public stakeholders in pharmaceutical manufacturing in Afghanistan, including the Acting Minister of Public Health, to identify the next steps needed to enhance the industry in the country.
Leadership and Direction, Processes and Laws, Communications, Capacity Building and Industry Standards were the five key topics identified in the assessment, and discussed among the 65 participants, in order to form a common vision for the sector and feasible strategies along with implementation plans.


Stakeholders came to an agreed-upon vision of seeing Afghanistan produce at least 30% of its needed essential quality pharmaceuticals inside the country over the next 10 years. The following outcomes were also reported in support of this long-term goal:

  • Stakeholders agreed that political, economic and capacity building support would be required
  • Opportunities for the private sector to work closely with the public sector were identified
  • Various incentives for pharmaceutical manufacturing were agreed upon
  • The need to establish communications channels and dissemination of information inside and outside the country
  • Committees should be established to develop and implement industry standards and processes to ensure international guidelines are established
  • The development and establishment of skill building process is required.

Greater and more equitable access to priority medicines and medical supplies for Afghans, especially women and children, is the goal of HPIC’s Capacity Building and Access to Medicines project in Afghanistan. The multi-year development project is in partnership with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health and is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.