Maurice Hickey explains the initiative to provide concrete solidarity in this time of war
The European Association of Employed Community Pharmacists in Europe (EPhEU) is the European-wide federation of unions representing community pharmacists. The UK affiliate to EPhEU is the Pharmacists’ Defence Association with PDA chair, Mark Koziol, being EPhEU Secretary General from 2021-2024.
The conflict in Ukraine is the first war within the geography covered by EPHEU and it was quickly apparent that considerable quantities of medicines and dressings would be needed. Pharmaciens Sans Frontières Comité International (PSF), also known as ‘Pharmacists Without Borders’, ceased to operate globally in 2009. Before then it had been active in humanitarian activity in countries in Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Far East, and Latin America. As PSF no longer exists globally, there was no organisation to which the PDA and other EPhEU members could look to coordinate efforts.
Instead, EPHEU has acted to fill the gap and is coordinating a pan-European scheme to supply medicines direct to Ukraine. Each EPhEU affiliated union has sought a national charity partner with whom funding can be raised to assist pharmacists in Ukraine to care for patients. In Britain, the PDA has joined with CAFOD who collect funds and gift-aid on behalf of the PDA, allowing the union to concentrate on the provision of medicines from around Europe. The EPhEU has liaised with appropriate stakeholders in Ukraine and neighbouring states to determine what medicines are needed, and has brokered agreements between Ukraine and bordering countries to ensure requested supplies are purchased and delivered direct to the points of need.
The regular medicines supply infrastructure in parts of Ukraine and around 100 hospitals have already been destroyed, while military and civilian casualties are increasing every day. The Ukrainian pharmacist profession need all the help they can get. The EPhEU initiative is about establishing a long-term supply programme that can keep the medicines coming for many months to come.
A ‘pull’ supply chain has been established whereby actual need as specified by Ukrainian health professionals drive the process, contrasting with the traditional ‘push’ supply chain which anticipates or guesses likely needs, often resulting in unforeseen gaps in supply and creates considerable wastage of unneeded goods. This ‘pull’ model is proving successful and is now being evaluated use in future by bodies like UNICEF and the charities involved in the Disaster Emergency Committee.
Mark Koziol accompanied the initial consignment of nearly £200,000 worth of medicines which were delivered to Ukrainian hospitals. In his report of the trip, he explained: ‘Although it had been done with the collaboration of the Polish and Ukrainian authorities, with the temperature at 36 degrees and a security briefing fresh in the mind, the journey was atmospheric and filled with foreboding. We were required to leave our mobile phones and laptops behind due to hostile monitoring of networks’.
His full report of his journey can be found here https://www.the-pda.org/wp-content/uploads/Marks-Ukraine-Report-1.pdf To find out more or donate to this initiative please visit: www.medicinestoukraine.com A PDA display poster promoting the medicines to Ukraine initiative and encouraging donations is available from the PDA at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maurice Hickey is Head of Policy for the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA)-Scotland.