Ecuador earthquake: need for medicines

Be part of our mission to deliver health and hope to the people of Ecuador following the massive April 16 earthquake.

What can you do?
→ Take a Humanitarian Medical Kit
– ready-to-go portable kit
– contains a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies
– can provide up to 600 treatments
→ Plan a bulk airlift of primary care kits
Make a donation to HPIC’s emergency relief efforts to help us move urgently needed medicines to Ecuador
Make a product donation (healthcare companies only)

What’s happening in Ecuador?
• National state of crisis declared
• 6 provinces impacted
• Strongest quake to hit Ecuador since 1979
• Thousands are homeless, towns are destroyed
• Survivors are seeking shelter and support
• Many need medical treatment
• Landslides hampering relief efforts
• Number of dead and injured expected to grow
• April 18: 350 dead & 2,000 injured

HPIC is working with our partners to mobilize emergency medical relief.

Humanitarian Medical Kits needed (formerly Physician Travel Packs (PTP)

These kits are HPIC’s primary way to respond to emergency situations. Pre-packed with a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies, the kits are portable and convenient and allow medical personnel and aid agencies to go wherever the needs are. With a Humanitarian Medical Kit, a health worker can set up a functioning clinic virtually anywhere and begin seeing patients immediately.

HPIC responding to Yellow Fever outbreak in Angola

In the past few days, HPIC staff have been busy mobilizing needed medical supplies to help people suffering from Yellow Fever in Angola.

“There is no cure but medical treatment is needed to treat symptoms and ease suffering,” says Denis St-Amour, HPIC’s President. “We expect to do a first airlift as early as April 20.”

The World Health Organization has stated that this outbreak “constitutes a potential threat for the entire world.”

A cluster of cases first appeared in December 2015. According to the WHO, as of April 7, 2016, there were more than 1,700 cases in 16 of 18 provinces in Angola and 238 deaths. The virus has now spread to D.R. Congo, Kenya, and China. Up to 50 per cent of people with severe cases will die.

Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The “yellow” in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients.

If you would like to help send critically needed medical supplies, donate now to HPIC’s Emergency Relief.

Volunteers key in delivering health and hope

Volunteers play a big role in Health Partners International of Canada’s (HPIC) mission of delivering health and hope. All the people who take Humanitarian Medical Kits to provide primary and specialized care to vulnerable communities are volunteers and all the people who pack them are volunteers. Not only that- the kits are topped up with Izzy Dolls, which are knitted or crocheted by volunteers.

HPIC also benefits from office volunteers and professionals who donate their time and expertise to help the organization.

It is National Volunteer Week and a great time to acknowledge and celebrate HPIC’s volunteers.

“Our volunteers are a great bunch of people who really ‘get’ what we do,” says Nanette Hoogsteen, HPIC’s volunteer coordinator. “I would like to say a big thank you!”

Nanette says that if you added up all the hours donated by volunteers to pack medicines, it would come to 1363 hours or a value of $15,600 if you paid the Ontario minimum wage for those hours.

Over a third of the volunteer time was given by employees of the following pharmaceutical and healthcare companies: AstraZeneca, Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline, Bayer, Alcon Canada, UCB Canada, LEO Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, and IMS Brogan.

Other volunteers came from the local community as well as Rotaract, the Oakville Blades hockey team and Monarch Park Collegiate.

During 43 volunteer packing days, volunteers packed 450 Humanitarian Medical Kits or enough medicine to provide over 100,000 people with medical treatment.

Some other cool things that Nanette noted about our volunteer program over the last year:
• Our volunteers ranged in age from 16 to 99 years old (Yes, you read that right!)
• We celebrated five volunteers who have been with us for over 10 years
• Our younger volunteers were eager to learn and were interested in the logistics and challenges of nonprofit work in the developing world
• Our new distribution centre is completely accessible so we look forward to including people with disabilities on our teams during volunteer days
• We welcomed two volunteers with disabilities and made accommodations for a student with dyslexia
• We had two volunteer training days that were highly attended and successful

You can deliver health and hope to an impoverished community, here’s how

Thinking about heading abroad to serve as a volunteer or to help a community in need? You can deliver health and hope by carrying a Humanitarian Medical Kit to a community and HPIC can help you make it happen. Volunteers, humanitarians, students, health professionals – and you – can take a Humanitarian Medical Kit from HPIC to provide up to 600 full courses of medical treatment to a community in need.

The lack of access to essential medicines in developing countries is a most pressing global health issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 2 billion people do not have adequate access to healthcare and medicine.

HPIC’s Humanitarian Medical Kits are like portable pharmacies that allow you to set up a clinic virtually anywhere. Others choose to deliver a kit to a healthcare provider in the field. The kits contain a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies, all donated by Canadian healthcare companies. The contents, valued around $6,000, are all in-date and high quality. HPIC operates according to the high standards of Health Canada and the WHO.

HPIC is the only organization in Canada that provides this service to volunteers, medical teams and humanitarian groups. Since 1998 HPIC has provided treatment to about 3 million people through the kits. HPIC also has kits tailored to the needs of specialists and dentists, and for maternal care.

“This year we changed the name to Humanitarian Medical Kit from Physician Travel Pack so it is clear that you do not have to be a physician,” says Claudia Sighomnou, Director of HPIC’s Humanitarian Medical Program.

Some volunteers may ask why they should take medicines from Canada instead of buying locally. “When I go to Haiti on my annual mission trip, people are eager to receive care and to receive medicine that works,” says Dr. Pierre Plourde. “Counterfeit medicine is a real problem and so is the lack of needed medicines. There are many gaps in supply, and quality and efficacy are often a problem. When I take the Humanitarian Medical Kit, I am ready to work and I am confident in the medicines I am dispensing. ”

Here’s what people are saying about HPIC’s Humanitarian Medical Kits:

  • The kits were an “essential part of our trip. Without the packs, we would not have been able to deliver any of our care”
  • “The quantity of medications received allowed us to really maximize our budget and make the largest impact possible”
  • “Incredibly useful”
  • “An excellent overall complete package of essential medicines for our rapid deployment teams to use in the immediate aftermath of a disaster ”
  • “The documentation is complete and facilitates customs clearance.”

To obtain a kit, you have to apply (application available at and HPIC requests a donation of $575 that covers some of HPIC’s costs. Receipts for income tax purposes are issued and you can use HPIC’s online fundraising tool to invite your supporters to contribute too (they would also get tax receipts).

If you need help finding a volunteer opportunity or planning your trip or would simply like more information, please contact us at 1-800-627-1787, ext. 129 or

If you have suggestions or comments about how we can help you, please contact us. If you know of people or organizations looking for quality donated medicines for health projects, please refer them to HPIC.

Successful surgery allows Mum to see baby for the first time

In Canada we tend to think of cataracts as a common problem for older people. In tropical places, cataracts can affect younger people and they are the most common cause of blindness in the world.

Dr. Sue Wallace, an ophthalmologist from B.C., and a team with International Vision Volunteers Canada went to Zambia in the fall of 2015 for two weeks. They saw over 600 patients and performed 75 surgeries.

Dr. Wallace and her team were equipped by HPIC with a humanitarian medical kit, containing specially donated products from Hospira, Pharmascience and Teva for this mission.

“These patients are extremely poor and there would otherwise be no accessible eye care available,” she wrote in her report to HPIC. “Certainly they would not be able to afford the medications we dispensed and we could not have done our surgeries without the anesthetic products that were donated.”

One of the patients who had surgery was a young mother. Dr. Wallace told her story in her report to HPIC:

“A young woman was led into our clinic by her husband. She was bilaterally blind from dense white cataracts that had developed over a year ago. She was no longer able to care for her young children and had never seen her new baby’s face. She underwent cataract surgery and the next morning we removed her eye patch and she saw her baby for the first time! 

“The look of joy and appreciation that crossed her face was a sight to be seen! She will now be able to look after her family instead of being a burden.”

This particular patient benefited from the local anaesthetic donated by Hospira.

Apotex provides pain relief for women in DRC

The first container of 2016 destined for HEAL Africa’s Hospital in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo is being packed at Health Partners International of Canada’s distribution centre.

Along with the usual contents of medical and surgical supplies, HPIC will be providing four skids of essential medicines.

“This shipment, which literally is a delivery of health and hope for the women and children at HEAL Africa, will include medicines for the first time and a major donation from Apotex,” said Helen Crawley, HPIC’s Director of NGO Programs.

“We are going to be drawing down on this stellar donation from Apotex for a few months and we know that it will meet the needs of many of our NGO partners’ health projects,” Helen said.

“HEAL Africa will be receiving two pallets of acetaminophen or enough to provide 21,000 treatments,” said Helen. “Acetaminophen is useful for managing pain after surgery and effective pain control can help speed the recovery process.”

A lot of healing takes place at HEAL Africa but the greatest stories of healing and coming back to life are about the women who have survived sexual assault. HEAL Africa repairs their bodies with surgery, gives them gentle care and provides counselling and practical skills to ease them back into life.

For many decades the DRC has suffered from extreme violence and wars, mass population displacements, widespread rape, and a collapse of public health services. Women and girls have been on the frontlines of conflict since sexual assault is used as a weapon. As a result, thousands of women in the eastern DRC live with stigma and trauma.

Every year, HEAL Africa’s hospital provides care to about 9,000 women survivors.

Here is a story told by Colette, one of the women who arrived at HEAL Africa close to death:

“I was the victim of rape by armed bandits in my house, I did not even have hope to regain my health, I was almost dead, but thanks to the free medical care that I have received at HEAL Africa since June 2015, I have already recovered my health. I am really grateful for HEAL Africa and its partners for this high quality, and free, medical care. Given my situation of poverty, I could not have found the means [to pay] for my treatment. Because the support for rape victims [at HEAL Africa] is free and given the reputation of the hospital in the country, I was motivated to come here. HEAL Africa sent a vehicle to take me more than 50 km between the city of Goma and my village because I could not even stand up. I am very grateful to regain my health.”

HEAL Africa’s hospital has 197 beds and is a tertiary referral hospital. It is one of only three referral hospitals in the DR Congo. It provides general surgery, orthopedics, obstetrics and gynecology (including fistula repair), pediatrics, and internal medicine. It also serves as a centre for healthcare and research, and for training doctors and healthcare professionals.

HPIC has been providing containers of medical supplies to the hospital since 2003. For the past 10 years, Unifor’s Social Justice Fund has provided the necessary funding to HPIC for this relief to HEAL Africa.


Pharmacist shares Haitian project at Pharmascience

The first time he went to Haiti, Jean-François Bussières was discouraged. “I was shocked, I vomited, I lost consciousness, I was frustrated,” he recalled. “The quality of care was not ideal. The hospital is disorganized. They are dealing with many problems: parasites, HIV, hepatitis. There are shortages. For example, caregivers sometimes don’t have sterile or clean gloves and they don’t have enough.”

That was two years ago and today, he feels he is over the shock and more equipped to contribute to the work his Haitian colleagues are doing to reorganize the St-Michel Hospital. “We become more useful as we become immunized against the shocks and discomfort. With a spirit of humility, we can get closer to the people there and we can start to make a difference.”

Jean-François, who serves as chief pharmacist at Montreal’s Ste-Justine Hospital for children, came to thank Pharmascience for their donations of medicine to Health Partners International of Canada at the all-employee meeting of 1,600 Pharmascience employees Jan. 26.

“Just a few hours in a plane and you arrive in a country that is totally disorganized and chaotic,” he shared. “It makes you understand why Haitians want to leave.”

Haitians make about $1 – $2 a day and nothing is covered, he says. Patients must pay for everything. Access to good medications makes an enormous difference.

Every time Jean-François travels to Haiti, he brings humanitarian medical kits supplied by HPIC. The last time he went in the summer of 2015, he carried three products especially donated by Pharmascience to his project: Clarithromycin, Amoxicillin and Naproxen.

In Haiti a lot of medicine that is available is of inferior quality or expired. “The medicines provided by HPIC are essential to our project,” he said. “I am able to take care of the patients thanks to these medicines. Thank you to HPIC and thank you Pharmascience.”

Jean-François is part of a Canadian Red Cross project to reorganize the St-Michel Hospital in Jacmel, Haiti. The hospital is currently under construction and is expected to open this year. Jean-François is planning his next trip to Haiti for this spring.

Pharmascience was the top donor of medicines to HPIC in 2015. In total the company has provided 5 million courses of treatment through their donations to HPIC over 21 years.

Smiles of 100 patients express gratitude for life-changing plastic surgery

Some kids and their parents travelled over 400 kms for the opportunity to have free plastic surgery to repair facial malformations.

They had heard that a volunteer team with Operation Rainbow Canada was coming to India in late 2015. HPIC equipped the team with all the anesthetics needed for surgery, which were donated by AstraZeneca Canada. HPIC also provided donated sutures and other important medicines.

“They are polite and patient,” wrote Dr. Rai, the team leader. “Even post-surgery, they complain of pain very little. They have not seen at all or rarely seen Caucasian people and are very courteous about wanting to take pictures with them. I feel good that we are able to help and improve the lives of these unfortunate patients.”

Over 100 patients, some as young as three years old, received life-changing surgery over the two-week mission in November 2015. Most surgeries were to repair facial malformations, some were to improve problems caused by major burns. ORC’s priorities are babies, children, and young adults. The earlier the surgery is done in a child’s life, the less psychological trauma there will be. But when time permits, adults also benefit from life-changing surgery.

“(Early in the morning) the patients are silent and I wonder what goes across their minds. They trust us foreigners with their lives for a better outcome. Whatever little we can do to help them to face a new world with confidence, we are grateful,” Dr. Rai says.

“Their smiles show their appreciation and thanks. Even though they cannot speak our language, they show they are on the road to start a new life.”

One young woman who is experiencing a fresh start is Madhu. The report to HPIC related her story:

“Born to a poor family and orphaned when she was young, she was raised by her sister and they still live together.

“Her sister heard about the opportunity for the surgery, took the five-hour bus trip to the hospital, and stayed with Madhu throughout the process. They are poor farmers and Madhu doesn’t talk much due to her cleft lip, but the team could feel that she has a very pleasant personality in spite of her condition.

“Many patients look a bit puzzled and stare in disbelief at the stranger staring back at them in the mirror. Madhu was no different and she quite liked looking at her reflection. Mary, the recovery nurse, gave her a mirror to take home. After many years of disappointment trying to get assistance, Madhu’s sister was so very grateful that they made the long journey. We were glad that they took this chance as well.

“Every time I do a mission it reminds me how lucky we are in Canada to have all the necessary healthcare we could ever need.”




Thank you Izzy Doll knitters and crocheters!

HPIC’s knitters and crocheters received a special thank you from partners in the Physician Travel Pack program. Did you know that every year HPIC receives over 12,000 Izzy Dolls to distribute with our medical relief shipments every year?

These dolls protect the valuable life-saving medicines and then are given out to children who come to clinics. In some cases they are a first toy for a child. In all cases, the dolls bring joy and comfort.

Let us pass on this special word of thanks from our partners with the Eganville Rotary who brought a Physician Travel Pack to bring medical relief to people living in a slum in Kenya this October:

“Dr. Peter Inoti and his wife Francisca opened the PTP today and were extremely pleased with the shipment of drugs and medical supplies.  The knitted dolls were a very nice touch and as you can see from the photos, were appreciated by one happy youngster at the Clinic.  Please thank the people who did the knitting.”

“Let me add our thanks to our nationwide network of volunteer knitters and crocheters,” says Denis St-Amour, President of HPIC. “Each doll represents a child in an impoverished community who benefits from our medical relief programs. The doll is a lasting reminder of the care they received and a symbol of love from Canada because each doll is unique and handmade with love by a volunteer. Thank you.”

HPIC always needs Izzy Dolls. You can knit or crochet them too.

Recently the Izzy Doll was in the news because a lady in Perth is making them for refugees arriving in Canada.