MedShare’s global impact was clearly visible once again on Sept. 13 when more than 30 volunteers gathered at its headquarters on Clifton Springs Road to send off a shipment of medical supplies to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The Decatur-based humanitarian aid organization has delivered life saving medical supplies to 100 countries and territories since its founding in 1998. MedShare gathers leftover medical supplies and equipment from hospitals all over the U.S. and redistributes them to underserved communities around the world.
Ever ready in times of emergency, MedShare quickly started collecting supplies for distribution in areas affected by the devastation brought on by hurricanes in the Caribbean and closer to home as it has continued its support of people affected by the destruction in Sierra Leone brought on by mudslides, the monsoon flooding in South Asia and the earthquakes in Mexico.
While hurricane Irma’s wrath was a reminder of immediate human suffering, Charles Redding, MedShare’s CEO and president, underscored the constant need for aid in a country where the average life expectancy is 54 years.
In the past three decades, the DRC experienced the world’s deadliest conflicts involving half-a-dozen neighboring countries and destroying its health care systems. An estimated 70 percent of Congolese have limited access to health care despite its government’s efforts to build up the sector, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The arrival in 2003 of former U.S. AID official Nell Diallo as MedShare’s vice president of international development, helped strengthen the organization’s ties to the African continent by creating an “African strategy” generally with more than 50 percent of its containers now going to the continent.
Ms. Diallo told Global Atlanta that the Africa Strategy involves contacting the heads of African countries and encouraging them to support MedShare’s shipments.
“The MedShare Africa program proves what I have witnessed over the years that Africa contributes over 60 percent of its own healthcare contrary to the widespread view that it is all coming from outside aid,” she said.
Through her lobbying efforts directly with heads of African governments, she has managed to receive support from the country’s themselves in addition to that of U.S. corporate sponsors as well as foundation and private donors that assist its initiatives.
For instance, according to detailed MedShare records, MedShare has sent 47 shipments of 40-foot shipping containers of equipment and supplies to the DRC worth an estimated $14 million since 2005.
Ms.Diallo also told Global Atlanta that the DRC paid for the majority of those containers after she lobbied the office of its president for assistance. The container collected this September, however, was funded by the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation. and is to head across the Atlantic Ocean from Savannah to the coast of West Africa once the cargo vessels at the Savannah port can accommodate it either by the end of the month or in early October.
It then is to travel by way of the port in Algericas, Spain, and onto Matadi, the river port of discharge on the Congo River in the DRC, where it will be received by representatives of the Hospital General de Reference de Gombi Matadi.
The Sept. 13 MedShare event in Decatur brought together representatives of what has become a partnership with the 5013c-nonprofit in supporting the medical needs of the second-largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Their members include the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, the Africa Diaspora Network, the Kongo International Association, Books for Africa and the Morehouse School of Medicine.
Vuvu Manseka, manager of quality assurance and global licensing for the Coca-Cola Co., who also heads Coke’s Africa Diaspora Network, explained how Coke came to support MedShare’s Africa projects. Launched in 2004 as a small internal gathering, the Africa Diaspora Network has blossomed to the extent that it now holds an annual public forum highlighting the company’s diversity and commitment to African markets.
Mr. Manseka told Global Atlanta that Alex Cummings, who headed Coke’s Africa Group at the time, encouraged him and other former Coke associates to launch the network for a broader awareness of Africa’s significance..
Seven years later in 2011, Victor Makwenge Kapus, the DRC’s former minister of health, toured MedShare’s headquarters in Decatur at the invitation of Ms. Diallo.
He also met with Mr. Cummings, Mr. Manseka and other officials at Coke headquarters in Atlanta and discussed at length the DRC’s health crisis. In response, Mr. Cummings told Mr. Manseka to focus on Coke’s and MedShare’s efforts to help the DRC.
Carlos Pagoaga, group director of partnerships at the Coca-Cola Co., also attended the Sept. 13 event and underscored his company’s commitment to helping MedShare’s efforts in Africa and elsewhere in the world.
Dr. Rigobert Lapu, who is originally from the DRC and currently is a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine and Dr. Makidi Kee Ntima of the Kongo International Association, attended the event as well.
MedShare to Host Its Kaleidoscope fund raising event this Saturday evening.
In keeping with its commitment to providing equipment to Africa, MedShare is hosting this Saturday, Sept. 23, a fundraiser at The Foundary at Puritan Mill, 916 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. NW, at which time it will present Dr. Simeon Afolayan, a lifetime achievement award, and Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, a global humanitarian award.
Dr. Afolayan, a Nigerian, kept hospitals operating during the most difficult periods of social strife and industrial actions in his country. In 1999, he and his colleagues developed a Free Rotational Surgery program that carried out bi-weekly surgical missions in many towns in Osun State. During each surgical outing, over 100 free surgeries were carried out on an average day to those who could not otherwise afford it. Dr. Afolayan and his team conducted over 15,000 health screenings and 2,500 free surgeries during the program.
Inspired by this program’s success, Dr. Afolayan and his colleagues stepped in to provide free medical care for a prototype floating clinic that his son, Akin, built in one of the coastal slums of Lagos. Within a year, the mobile surgical program gained a new life as the nonprofit, Hope Builds. However, the team still calls themselves by the original project’s name, Hope Floats Initiative. This team has carried out over 3,000 free surgeries in the past 8 years.
Since 2010, MedShare and The Reed Family Foundation have supported Hope Builds’ surgical team’s efforts with the shipment of four shipment donations of critical supplies, equipment and pharmaceuticals. Dr. Afolayan continues to answer the call for help anywhere his team is needed.
Dr Boachie-Adjei is the president and founder of the Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS). A native of Kumasi, Ghana, he immigrated to the United States in 1972 where he earned his medical degree from Columbia University. He established FOCOS Hospital in 1998 as a not–for‐profit organization with the mission of providing comprehensive, Orthopedic care to underserved populations throughout Africa. The hospital provides comprehensive Orthopedic services including diagnostic, imaging, laboratory, outpatient consultation, pharmacy and surgical care to adult and pediatric populations in Africa, free of charge.
Honorary chair of the event is Bob Hope, president and co-founder, of Hope-Beckham Inc. The host committee includes Spring and Tom Asher, Betsy and David Baker,
Nancy and Tommy Barrow, Leigh and Nick Brady, Heather Fenton and Richard Ossoff, Jeff Hullinger, Jill and Paul Paris, Steve Penley, Edie and Glen Reed.
To learn more about the event, visit www.medshare.org/