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Q & A With HPIC’S Director of Programs

With the onset of COVID-19, many things have changed, however the mission to provide health and hope to vulnerable communities around the world remains the priority. HPIC’s Director of Programs, Barbara Trachsel gives an update on how HPIC has been and will continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: How has the work of HPIC changed since COVID-19 emerged?
BT:  A lot of our current projects have shifted and our focus over the last few weeks has been mainly responding to COVID-19. We have been working with our Canadian and international partners to provide much needed medicine and supplies. Many of the countries where we work already experience unreliable supplies of medicine and there are concerns that due to global disruption in production and transportation, the scale of medicine shortages will be even greater as a result of COVID-19.

Q: How has HPIC responded to the COVID-19 pandemic since it started?
BT: HPIC has done quite a lot since the pandemic began. In January, we put a call out to our healthcare industry partners for PPE to help when the situation was really bad in China before it spread across the world. We were able to send gloves, shoe covers and coveralls to the Red Cross of Tianjin.

Over the last few weeks, we shipped medicines and supplies to Eswatini, Jamaica and Malawi. We are also in the process of sending medicine and supplies to countries that were already been dealing with humanitarian crises. To help refugees and internally displaced communities who are particularly at risk during this pandemic, we will be sending medicine and supplies to Northern Iraq, Burkina Faso, Congo and Bangladesh.

Although no treatment has been identified for COVID-19, HPIC is providing medicines and supplies required to care for COVID-19 patients to treat mild symptoms. Medicine and medical supplies are also needed to maintain existing health services as facilities are forced to use their scarce resources to respond to COVID-19. This is often to the detriment of other healthcare needs.

In addition to medicine, through our local partners in Ghana and Kenya, we have been training and equipping healthcare workers, we are providing disinfecting supplies and we have installed hand washing stations at health facilities and key public places. We are also working with our partners to increase public awareness of COVID-19 through radio shows.

Q: What type of medicine and support can HPIC use right now?
BT: The demand for medicine from our partners around the world has been overwhelming. Last week, we emptied our entire Humanitarian Medical Kit inventory to send to refugee and displaced communities so there is a desperate need to replenish. We find that we are having a high demand for analgesics, anti-bacterials, antibiotics and disinfectants.

Financial support is equally needed in order for us to scale up our COVID-19 response through medicine donations and locally buying PPE and scaling up our prevention and treatment initiatives.

Q: To the people who say things are really bad in Canada, ‘why should we support people overseas when there is so many people in need here?’ What would you say to them?
BT: Even though we in Canada are feeling the strain of isolation, financial and healthcare concerns, we must remember that most people around the world do not enjoy the same access to healthcare and housing that is allowing us to keep ourselves well during this crisis. From past experiences with cholera, Ebola, HIV and tuberculosis, we know that COVID-19 will really affect the most vulnerable. It is also known from past experiences that facility and community-based solutions can minimize the death toll of epidemics and help to contain the spread of diseases.

Now more than ever, our international activities are so important. Part of Canada’s ability to protect the health and safety of Canadians is to work in solidarity across the globe.

Q: How can people support HPIC’s COVID-19 initiatives?
BT: You can join HPIC now, and help us in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in several ways. We need donations of medicine and financial support to mobilize health care.

Financial donations can be made online at

You can also mobilize those around you and host a fundraiser in support of this cause. Every $1 allows us to deliver $10 worth of medicine. For more information on partnerships and financial support contact Dayana Gomez, Director of Philanthropy at [email protected]

For donations of medicines or medical supplies please contact Heather Watts, Director of Healthcare Industry Relations at [email protected]

You can also become an HPIC ambassador. Helps us spread the word about this work and ask others to join. Please also follow us on social media and help us showcase the faces of those impacted by HPIC.

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