Early in the 20th century, Dr. Paluel Joseph Flagg from New York City went on a medical mission to Haiti to treat leprosy patients. The young anesthesiologist was grieving the loss of his wife and infant daughter, and devoting his energies to those in extreme poverty gave him new purpose. From these beginnings, Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) has developed into a leading global non-profit health organization.
CMMB provides long-term, community-based medical, preventive and development aid to communities affected by poverty and unequal access to health care. Its focus is on health issues facing the most vulnerable women, children and their communities in targeted parts of Zambia, Kenya, South Sudan, Peru and Haiti.
Yet its reach extends far beyond these five countries. Last year, CMMB delivered medicines and supplies to 39 countries, and working with partner networks supported more than 2,900 health facilities.
Americans have access to the best and most effective products available. In the developing world, by contrast, health facilities are often overwhelmed, understaffed and short of vital supplies and medicines, says Darnelle Bernier, vice president of CMMB’s medical donations program. The COVID-19 pandemic has added new stress to health resources globally. Bernier notes Peru has one of the highest rates of infection, based on testing, in Latin America.
Peruvians were already vulnerable because of hypertension, diabetes and other factors, she adds.
With the pandemic amplifying the demand for equipment such as oxygen concentrators and for treatments for underlying health conditions that increase risk of dangerous symptoms of COVID-19, donated prescription drugs are needed more than ever. AAM members who are interested in helping can learn more here and contact Maria Verbanac at MVerbanac@cmmb.org. CMMB also offers opportunities for travel-free volunteering.
U.S. regulations prevent the distribution of prescription medicines within 12 months of expiration. CMMB takes product with eight or more months to expiry that would be destroyed and distributes it around the world, free of charge. These donated medicines provide cures and treatments, and they also build trust in the health care systems.
In many countries, Bernier notes,
substandard products have been known to do great harm, and restoring trust means that more patients will seek out care when they need it. They leverage the strength of long-term relationships built from quality programs, partnering with ministries of health to spread reliable information in communities.
A founding member of the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations, CMMB also provides training in supply chain management and, during the pandemic, guidance on extended use of personal protective equipment. In September 2020, Mary Beth Powers became CEO of CMMB.
Our AAM membership means better and deeper connections with generic drug manufacturers to advance our shared vision for healthier lives worldwide, she says.
Through partnership, we can make a real difference for patients in Haiti, Kenya, Peru, South Sudan, Zambia and beyond.
By Jewel Smith, AAM's Director, Operations