While the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in public health policies and healthcare services, it has also demonstrated how pharmacists can have an increased role in delivering healthcare. This is true for both developed and developing countries, but for the latter, a shortage of healthcare personnel is limiting this role.
According to statistics and independent surveys from the World Health Organization (WHO), sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest incidence of pharmacists in the WHO-identified regions
Since 2017, the Square Alumni Foundation
, a registered charity, has sponsored pharmacy students in four countries — Namibia, Botswana, Malawi and Ethiopia — with the intent, albeit in an extremely modest way, of addressing the shortage and, at the same time, encouraging a greater role for pharmacists in public health. Some of the students that we have helped can be seen on our Facebook page.
Through liaising with universities, the Foundation can bring additional benefits, such as access to academic staff, both in person and, as many of us are now familiar, video conferencing.
More funding means that we can help more students, but with increased engagement of UK pharmacists, we can help in other ways: the universities will benefit from resources (equipment) and academic interaction.
UK pharmacists can help financially but experience and contacts are also invaluable. If you are interested in getting involved, you can contact the Foundation through our website, or directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philip Harrison, founder, Square Alumni Foundation