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Monday 25 March 2019
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BLOG: Pharmaciens Sans Frontiers

While waiting for the Lungi Airport ferry to Freetown before dawn one spring morning, I overheard a conversation between excited fellow passengers introducing themselves and explaining what had brought them to Sierra Leone; they were clowns - members of Clowns Without Borders to be precise.


Many professions have formed 'without border' associations enabling them to provide their services and skills to those in need, regardless of politics, race, religion or gender, 'pro bono' -meaning the costs are borne by the professionals themselves. Clowns Without Borders share this ethos in their intention 'to offer humour as a means of psychological support to communities that have suffered from trauma' ( As far back as 1993, they were performing in refugee camps in Croatia.


So I have been researching Pharmacists Without Borders or Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres (PSF). In Google, the first definition takes you to PSF Canada and the latter to PSF Switzerland. There used to be a global PSFCI (International committee of PSF) which in no longer in existence, but is thought to have become ACTED, a French NGO.


Many countries have set up their own versions of PSF, as was demonstrated by a recent meeting of interested groups from all over the world. The venue was Buenos Aires; the occasion, the Annual Conference of FIP (International Pharmaceutical Federation). Representatives from PSFs in Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Norway met with interested pharmacists from the US, Australia and UK to agree terms of reference for a collaborative global approach, appoint a Chair and Secretary, and plan a way forward.


As a result, a network of PSFs has been formed, which will meet annually at FIP conferences, and virtually by webinar twice a year to discuss key topics and concerns. We have established a shared drive for uploading information; each PSF can share notes on what they do, where they work, how they train pharmacists and how they source and access resources for their missions. We hope to be able to cooperate on projects and share contacts all over the world to optimise our impact and develop best practice guidelines.


It was clear from the discussions that some groups train pharmacists for deploying in disaster response, including on how to use weapons, recognising that humanitarian aid workers are increasingly becoming targets of violence and are at risk of kidnapping. Others focus on long-term development projects, returning to the same communities annually, building capacity in local teams and transferring essential knowledge and skills to improve health outcomes.


One common theme is that of assuring medicines quality in resource-poor settings, and the debate over medicines donations. PSFCI was involved in the development of the original guidelines for donation of medicines, revised in 2010 (


The work of the Network has just begun. If you have a PSF that would like to join, or for more information, contact the Chair, Eeva Teräsalmie (, or me Trudi Hilton, Secretary (

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