Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on May 14, 2014

Labels: Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Tajikistan , Humanitarian Aid

John P. Howe, III, M.D. meets with children at University Children's Hospital of Krakow in October 2013

Right now, at the time of the worst East-West tensions since the fall of the Soviet Union, a lot of us are reminded of the antagonism of the Cold War years, which was a constant backdrop to many of our lives for so long.As the crisis in Ukraine has unfolded, there has also been a lot of attention paid to how things have changed in the two and a half decades since the Berlin Wall came down -- how nations in the former Soviet orbit have evolved and, in some cases, prospered.

I have seen the changes first-hand in my travels in Eastern Europe, to nations like Poland, Kosovo and Macedonia.  Project HOPE has been instrumental in supporting hospitals and helping train medical staff in places like Krakow, Poland and Skopje, Macedonia.

But while there has been a significant change for the better in many countries, the need in some areas of the old Soviet bloc is still great.

For the last 22 years, Project HOPE has been making a significant difference, as part of Operation Provide Hope with the United States Department of State.  Operation Provide Hope has airlifted more than $5 billion in donated medicines and medical supplies to Eastern European and Central Asian countries including Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Donated medicines and supplies arrive in the Republic of Georgia in 2008

This week, we are celebrating the 1000th airlift of humanitarian aid under the program – destined for Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and we are looking back on the countless people -- many with life threatening diseases -- that we have helped.

Project HOPE’s corporate partners – global pharmaceutical companies such as Abbott, AbbVie, Alcon, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Hospira, Inc., Merck & Co., Inc., and Sanofi Pasteur, among others, have filled hundreds of transport planes with supplies.

The program has targeted people with serious conditions like cancer and heart disease, providing medicines and supplies that have saved lives.

We have also concentrated on preventive care -- treating high blood pressure and diabetes across the former Soviet bloc -- and the program has also provided crucial post-operative antibiotics that have contributed to the success of many surgeries.  For example, in Tajikistan alone Project HOPE has distributed nearly 200,000 doses of TD vaccine to protect people from tetanus and diphtheria.

In collaboration with our friends in the Tajik Ministry of Health, we have identified the areas of greatest need and have done work which, I am proud to say, has greatly improved lives.

For instance, 31-year-old Hasanov Mukim came to the hospital with an acute respiratory virus syndrome. We were able to help him by making available acetaminophen tablets, which would not have been available to him without Operation Provide Hope.  A 23-year-old woman named Kosimova Nasiba was very ill with bronchial pneumonia -- and recovered thanks to donated doses of Ceftazidime.

Medicines and supplies donated by Project HOPE are offloaded after an airlift funded by the U.S. Department of State in Dushanbe, Tajikistan

I know from my travels in Tajikistan, as well as from government officials, how grateful the people of the country are for our help.  In a country as remote as Tajikistan, which has real economic challenges, the fact that people suffering from cancer and other diseases can get vitally needed medicines free of charge is remarkable and a testament to the work of Project HOPE and our partners in the pharmaceutical industry.

This week, we are gathering in our warehouse in Winchester, Virginia, with senior diplomats from the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan, U.S. Department of State officials and representatives of pharmaceutical companies that made donations for the program to recognize our work across old ideological divides.

This 1000th airlift will provide $29 million in medicines and supplies, bringing the total of Project HOPE's aid to Tajikistan, over the last 22 years, to $387 million.

The Department of State program will be wrapping up later this year, but Project HOPE will be looking for new ways in which we and our partners can continue to provide this kind of care -- which is literally so lifesaving.

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