DES MOINES, Washington — Inter Care, a nonprofit organization, works on supplying medical resources to Africa by dispatching unused medical supplies from the United Kingdom. Inter Care obtains surplus supplies from pharmaceutical companies and health care professionals, then delivers them to those in sub-Saharan Africa who require them urgently. To get more details, The Borgen Project spoke with Diane Hardy, the General Manager at Inter Care.
About Inter Care
Inter Care, founded by two doctors in 1974 following a visit to Africa, where they saw the need for medical aid, supplies roughly 100 health units across Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania.
Inter Care gathers its medical supplies by combining donations and purchases. Picking surplus health care goods and deciding when to initiate purchases is essential to their operations. In Tanzania, Inter Care collaborates with an NGO to navigate the complex process of importing medical supplies. In cases where a shipment is incomplete and lacks specific items, the organization purchases those items.
“Each country varies,” explained Hardy. “We try to support each health unit with two donations of medical aid per annum where possible. These can come from our warehouse in the U.K. or through purchasing in the country. Challenges [include]having the finances in place to pay for the purchasing or shipping costs. Also, as we send to remote health units, logistics can be very difficult — especially when we are sending medicines that need to remain in an ambient temperature.”
Inter Care Success Stories
Within the heart of Inter Care’s mission lies the pursuit of transforming lives through compassion and medical assistance. Diane Hardy shared two stories with The Borgen Project, those of Dorothy and Saumu.
- Dorothy: In early 2023, Dorothy, a mother of two residing in Pirimiti village in Malawi, faced considerable challenges during her third pregnancy. A recent illness had rendered her unable to care for her children adequately. Displaying abdominal pains and bleeding, she was diagnosed with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Thanks to Inter Care’s support, Pirimiti Hospital performed a life-saving operation, using donated medications to cover the associated costs. Thankfully, Dorothy experienced a successful recovery, was discharged after two days, and expressed gratitude for the care provided by the medical team and the financial assistance from Inter Care.
- Saumu: During Inter Care’s visit to an African orphanage, the team observed severely basic living conditions and significant understaffing, posing challenges to adequate childcare. However, these orphanages are crucial sanctuaries for African children like Saumu, who have been orphaned or abandoned due to albinism. Through its medical aid efforts, Inter Care supplies indispensable medications, dressing and comforting items such as teddy bears. The assistance benefits 250 orphans, like Saumu, and helps the staff manage their well-being.
How Access to Medical Supplies Alleviates Poverty
According to the World Health Organization, skilled health personnel are present for less than half of pregnant women during birth, and only 12% of those requiring urgent care during childbirth receive it in Africa. While 90% of facilities offer essential care for children under 5, only 65% provide services for adolescents and youth.
Access to medical supplies and robust health care systems plays a notable role in addressing poverty. Poverty and ill health are intertwined, as financial constraints often prevent individuals from accessing proper nutrition and health care. More than half of the global population lacks access to essential health care services, and health care expenses push nearly 100 million individuals into poverty. Additionally, limited access to health information and social services worsens these issues. Health-related challenges can also deepen poverty, as seeking medical care can lead to income loss, asset liquidation or debt accumulation.
The relationship between poverty and health care aligns closely with Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3), part of the United Nations’ broader efforts to improve global well-being by 2030. SDG 3 aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. Under SDG 3 are goals like increasing health financing, supporting the health workforce in developing countries, achieving universal health care coverage, and fighting infectious diseases. By achieving SDG 3, the world population is one step closer to achieving equality and health and ending poverty.
Maintaining good health relies on multiple factors, including access to health care services, essential resources like food and clean water, sanitation, education and health literacy. Both income level and social status contribute to disease risks and health care accessibility. Lack of access to necessary medical care can have far-reaching consequences, potentially hindering individuals’ ability to work or pursue education, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Currently, Inter Care does not have plans to expand to more countries in sub-Saharan Africa, given the substantial demand already existing within its current operations. The forthcoming three-year strategy will outline clear objectives, including achieving a targeted 10% growth in overall impact.
One of the key tactics will ensure that the quantity of donated medical supplies, such as medicines and health care goods, consistently surpasses the amount of purchased supplies. Another key development will be introducing a new approach to monitoring and evaluation, which in-country partners will support. Lastly, Inter Care intends to introduce a rating system for the organization designed to gauge performance and determine the effectiveness of their work.
Hardy told The Borgen Project, “It is an absolute privilege to work in this sector. Having personally had the opportunity to visit Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania, I have seen firsthand what a difference we make to everyday lives. In the Western society, we take for granted that we can access medical support when needed; we can walk into a pharmacy and purchase a much-needed dressing, etc. This is not the case [in the areas]we support, and most patients have literally no money to pay for any medical support. We should all live in a world where we can all access medical support when needed.”
Diane Hardy’s firsthand experience demonstrates Inter Care’s aim. As Inter Care continues to work on its plans, it inspires hope for a world where everyone can access the health care they need regardless of location or financial status. Inter Care is crucial in achieving SDG 3, assisting individuals like Dorothy and Saumu and alleviating poverty by providing medical supplies to those most in need. When organizations like Inter Care offer medical support, they not only treat illnesses but dismantle barriers that hinder people from climbing out of poverty.
– Clara Swart