PDA to build on Ukraine experience with charity for humanitarian aid
The Pharmacists’ Defence Association is to build on lessons learned in creating the Medicines to Ukraine campaign by establishing a registered charity – also named Medicines to Ukraine – through which to deliver current and future humanitarian efforts.
PDA chairman Mark Koziol said the campaign, which facilitates the distribution of medicines with the help of cash donations from pharmacists and the general public, has informed development beyond the initial programme for Ukraine.
“The PDA is a supporter of Pharmacist Support, but we never had a humanitarian charity arm. Some organisations on the continent did, and because they were already established, some countries raised millions in donations. Germany, for example, raised £1.7m within three months of the crisis starting, because they were an established charity with roots.
“That was a really important lesson for us. You have to be set up with a humanitarian charity. The interest of the public in particular has a relatively short window. We opened for donations in July, and we managed to raise nearly £220,000, a formidable effort, but I suspect had we been open in March we could have been significantly north of that.”
A stocktake towards the end of the year across the other members EPhEU, the organisation representing employed pharmacists across Europe, revealed that “vastly north of” £3m had been raised. “In terms of what pharmacists can do, that is something to be very proud of.”
Mr Koziol said he has also learnt a lot about campaigning. “Some of the simplest ideas are the best,” he says. “A single website that powerfully tells the story in different languages, that is accessible via a QR code on a poster that goes in for pharmacy windows with a simple call to action to ‘give us funds’ is a process that can be used wherever there is a disaster or a crisis.”
With the campaign, the network across Europe, the IT platform, as well as legal agreements with local charities who would handle the donations, all in place, Mr Koziol said that EPhEU approached international pharmacists’ organisation FIP. They did not have a humanitarian programme, although they have provided forms of assistance in the past.
“We [PDA] joined FIP in October last year specifically to drive through a humanitarian programme globally, using this as the basis. They have 200 countries in membership.” He addressed 5,000 people in a plenary session at the FIP annual assembly. “Country after country came along afterwards, asking how they could get involved. We have even had new members of EPhEU as a result.
“Ukraine started it off, but we want to be able to extend the knowledge and expertise pharmacists have got, anywhere in the world. Working with FIP, that’s going to give us the possibility.”
Next stop for Mr Koziol and the PDA is the World Health Organisation’s annual Health Minister’s global meeting in Geneva in the next month. “A year ago, that we would be asked to speak to them would have been a foreign concept to me,” he said. “We are now making some great strides in developing the global scheme, with access to, and interest in lots of countries around the world through FIP membership.
“From a personal perspective, to create a structure that endures, so that humanity can benefit from the expertise that pharmacists have got, is really valuable to the profession. These disasters aren’t going away.”
Mr Koziol was speaking at the end of a meeting in which the PDA, working with the British Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, brought together clinicians from the UK and Ukraine to discuss the global threat of antimicrobial resistance, a problem which is exacerbated in conflict situations. The aim of the meeting, which took place in Lublin in eastern Poland in late April, was identifying areas for improvement where UK colleagues might support development in Ukraine.