We play a key role in enabling healthcare companies to make donations that will save lives. Through these donations, we are helping communities that cannot access even the most basic medicines.  


Here, our CEO Adele Paterson explains more about how we operate and why successful partnerships lie at the heart of our work.  


What does International Health Partners do?   

We provide quality healthcare products to vulnerable and disaster-hit communities. We act as the bridge between supply and need, and we are responsible for the procurement, collection, placement and delivery of effective medicines.  IHP is a small organisation – there are only ten of us – but last year we were able to deliver more than four million treatments to 35 countries worldwide.   


When we hear about disasters happening, is this when your work begins? 

Although disasters seem to be unexpected, they can often be predicted. So, while we do respond to unfolding events, much of our work is about supporting long-term programming to anticipate incidents happening. We can only respond effectively to disasters on the back of long-term partnerships with regulators, companies, charities, funders and logistics experts.  


Companies donate to International Health Partners – why? 

Healthcare companies know that they are not always the best at knowing where their products should be sent in a disaster or understanding where need lies. They recognise they need our specialist knowledge, which allows them and us to get the right products to the right place at the right time.   


And are they giving their leftovers? 

Not always. The companies with whom we have the best relationships are those that buy into what we do, and why we do it. They give generously, often manufacturing stock to donate and giving us the exact same products that you or I would buy or receive We don’t take substandard product donations. All the products we receive as donations are “long dated (usually with at least 12 months of shelf life) and of the highest quality. They’re also products that are needed, rather than surplus to requirements. 

Underpinning our partnerships is an ongoing conversation with our partners. Often, we’ll say “Thank you for offering this, but actually we need something else.” Increasingly, companies are very willing to engage at that level. They realise how important it is to give people what they need, rather than donate what they themselves might want to give away. We call this being “needs-led”.  


In turn, we provide companies with feedback that demonstrates our and their impact. Lives are saved by some of these medicines, and this encourages ongoing donations.  


Q: Which medicines are needed?   

When large numbers of people are on the move, and have little or poor shelter, small problems can quickly escalate. A large volume of antibiotics, antifungals and pain killers are needed for response when people are not eating properly or sleeping well and are under constant stress. In unpredictable situations, supplies of medicines for chronic illness can dry up, so we also supply medicines for conditions such as diabetes.  


Is your work done when you have delivered the emergency medicines?  

Different levels of disaster and differing time frames bring different medical challenges. It's very rare to be able to predict when a disaster will end, and many of our partners continue to stay on as people start to recover In Sierra Leone for example, once Ebola had been eradicated, we supported the local primary healthcare operation with vitamins and de-worming programmesLater on, we found that what people really needed was medicines to improve mental health, which could help them recover from post-traumatic stress.  

Nepal is another example. After the large earthquake, we continued to work there for two further years. Recent disasters can't be said to have an end point: this is particularly noticeable, for example, with the Syrian refugee crisis.  


In 15 years, International Health Partners has delivered more than 40 million treatments to 100 countries. Even so, many millions of people continue to lack access to medicines. What’s your vision for the future?  

We have provided access to medicines for many people. As well as meeting immediate needs, we are part of a larger debate that sees all stakeholders contributing to create sustainable healthcare systems, very much in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  Our vision is that everyone has a right to have access to medicine. With this in mind, we enter initiatives such as our Sharing Best Practice Workshop, contributions to healthcare conferences, and membership of organisations including PQMD.  


Read more about our impact and programmes