#WHWWeek: Thank Your Pharmacist, A Cornerstone of the Health System

#WHWWeek: Thank Your Pharmacist, A Cornerstone of the Health System

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

"Medicines are a key component of treatments to save lives"

~ Kwesi Eghan, trained Ghanian pharmacist and MSH portfolio manager for the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) program in South Sudan and Afghanistan

A child in Tanzania has a fever for three days. A pregnant woman in Namibia is taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) to treat HIV and prevent transmission of HIV to her baby. A man in Swaziland suffers from drug-resistant TB and struggles to adhere to treatment.

Who helps ensure they take the right drug, at the right time, and for the right reason?

A pharmacist.

In many developing countries, pharmacists are primarily responsible for medicines selection, procurement, distribution, and explaining rational use of these medicines to their patients. But, many low- and middle-income countries suffer shortages of trained pharmacists. MSH and partners are helping countries and communities ensure that pharmacists and related health workers are equipped with the skills, systems, and support to provide quality services every day.

Below, meet some of these trained pharmacists, pharmacy assistants, and accredited medicine shop dispensers from five countries: Ethiopia, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Tanzania.

This World Health Worker Week, we honor and celebrate them, one of the cornerstones of the health system. If you're on social media, share the links to their stories or add your own using hashtags and (thank your pharmacist).


[Dagnachew Hailemariam, head pharmacist] {Photo credit: MSH staff/Ethiopia}Dagnachew Hailemariam, head pharmacistPhoto credit: MSH staff/Ethiopia

“We have come a long way,” says Dagnachew Hailemariam, head pharmacist of Bishoftu General Hospital in Ethiopia. “Six years ago, we followed a tiresome and unreliable system of counting and tracking bin cards and prescription information manually. … We had no procurement system for medicines—we  bought medicines that were not essential; many of those expired; and disposing of them was a challenge.”

Through the support of a drug and therapeutic committee, systems and guidelines have been established at the hospital that empower individual health workers and teams to improve service delivery. “I can take accountability for what I do now since there is a system that enables me to do that,” he says. “Now, we have a drug list; and we use the ABC/VEN reconciliation mechanism to determine which drugs are needed the most and which drugs to order in large amounts. … I can handle complaints, respond to inquiries, and carry out my duties with confidence.”

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[The first graduating class of trained pharmacists from the University of Namibia’s School of Pharmacy take the pharmacy oath.] {Photo credit: SIAPS Namibia}The first graduating class of trained pharmacists from the University of Namibia’s School of Pharmacy take the pharmacy oath.Photo credit: SIAPS Namibia

On April 24, 2015, the first class of students graduated from the B.Pharm program at the University of Namibia (UNAM)--the first and only pharmacy degree program in the country. With the help of MSH, through the USAID-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program, the Namibian Ministry of Health and Human Services developed, and encourages enrollment in, the B.Pharm degree. The graduation of the country’s first locally-educated pharmacists constitutes a major step forward in alleviating the country’s dire shortage of pharmacy staff and helping to meet the health care needs of the largely underserved Namibian population.

Read more (on SIAPSProgram.org)

[Martin Mandumbwa, pharmacy assistant] {Photo credit: MSH staff/Namibia}Martin Mandumbwa, pharmacy assistantPhoto credit: MSH staff/Namibia

Martin Mandumbwa, pharmacy assistant, manages the pharmaceutical services of the Robert Mugabe Clinic’s two pharmacies, one of which is dedicated to antiretroviral therapy (ART) services. He is one of a cadre of health workers who have graduated as pharmacy assistants from the National Health Training Center (NHTC), a branch of the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services. Says Mandumbwa, “I am very happy with the training I received at NHTC because I can dispense antiretrovirals (ARVs): I can initiate patients on ARVs, including counseling them.”

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South Africa

Pharmaceutical Leadership Development Program

Over two million people in South Africa are on HIV and AIDS treatment. Pharmacists serve a major role ensuring universal access to medicines. Public sector pharmacists must be good at caring for their patients, and be effective managers and leaders. Watch how Management Sciences for Health (MSH) has been supporting South Africa’s health system strengthening since 1997, including through the USAID-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program and the MSH-developed Pharmaceutical Leadership Development Program (PLDP).

Watch video


[Khontile, pharmacist and senior technical advisor] {Photo credit: SIAPS}Khontile, pharmacist and senior technical advisorPhoto credit: SIAPSA trained pharmacist, Khontile Kunene, senior technical advisor at MSH, leads the USAID-funded SIAPS Program's efforts to improve access to pharmaceutical services in Swaziland, working closely with the Pharmaceutical Services Department of the Swaziland Ministry of Health to strengthen pharmaceutical sector governance and services. With all of her achievements to date, including winning a Mandela Washington Fellowship of the Young African Leaders Initiative, Kunene says she is most proud of her role in the establishment of the first-ever pre-service pharmacy tertiary training program in Swaziland.

In an interview with SIAPS, Kunene says she hopes to be a leader improving health outcomes of people living with HIV and AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) by ensuring the quality regulation and use of pharmaceuticals. And, by helping to ensure improved quality standards in Swaziland, she says she dreams that no one living with critical medical conditions falls prey to false advertising which could result in abandoning proven treatment in lieu of unsound, non-medical therapies.

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[Audensia Batholomew, accredited medicine shop owner] {Photo credit: Jafary Liana/MSH}Audensia Batholomew, accredited medicine shop ownerPhoto credit: Jafary Liana/MSH

In rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa health facilities may be hours away on foot. The dispenser in a local medicine shop is often the first point of care for women and children in such locations. Audensia Batholomew, owner of two accredited medicine shops in Mkuranga District, Tanzania, recalls a time she helped a mother save a young child’s life. “The one-and-a-half year-old child had a very high fever and was convulsing... I took the child, gave paracetamol, and did some sponging to lower her temperature… then I referred the child to the health facility for further treatment.”

“Two days later, I saw the mother and asked about the condition of her child, and the mother was highly appreciative to me. Her child was better: she had been discharged back home after receiving malaria treatment and recovery.”

Audensia was certified by the Tanzanian Food and Drug Authority (TFDA) as an Accredited Drug Dispensing Outlet (ADDO) owner in 2010. “The accreditation process significantly improved how I provide health services in my outlets. … in my community, I’m regarded as a health care support person.”

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