Advice about sending medical supplies overseas

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Many organizations collect, sort, and send used or surplus medical goods to developing countries. Usually this is a great idea by helping people in impoverished areas get things that can improve their health care while also reducing waste from sending countries. However, sometimes it can be counterproductive if equipment being sent is broken, has missing parts, does not have a user manual, or is not appropriate for where it is going. Outdated medicines are often a problem, and many overseas governments are becoming more careful about what they will accept. These matters can result in big wastes of time and money and can create ill will between the sender and receiver.

Three organizations are especially trying to help raise the standards: (1) MedSurplus Alliance (2) Partnership for Quality Medical Donations (PQMD) and (3) Technical Exchanage for Christian Health Care (TECH). The TECH motto is “No Junk for Jesus.” Learn about them on their following descriptions and websites. Membership in any of the three of these helps show an appreciation of high standards. However, there are many other organizations with excellent quality standards who do not belong to MedSurplus Alliance, PQMD, or TECH.

It is estimated that up to 70% of the donated medical equipment is idle in Sub-Saharan Africa because of mismanagement of the acquisition process, lack of user training, and lack of technical support. The same problem is found in many other places.

Use Google to find these five references: (1) W.H.O. (World Health Organization) Guidelines for Healthcare Equipment Donations; (2) W.H.O Guidelines for Medicine Donations, Revised, 2010 as well as several other useful commentaries on the subject; (3 and 4) On August 4 and August 9, 2011 the New York Times published two insightful articles by Tina Rosenberg raising hope and concern: “Salvaging Medical Cast-Offs to Save Lives” and “Making Medical Donations Work”; (5) On August 1, 2012, Scientific American published an article called “Medical Technology Often Fail to Help”.