Humanitarian Competency Framework — Hazem Gammoh, M.S
The pandemic has revealed that more pharmacists are needed in humanitarian aid. We are pleased to have Hazem Gammoh raise awareness of the roles pharmacists can play in humanitarian aid and emergency response.
Thanks, Hazem for joining us today.
Jordan is observing a new wave of COVID-19, which is growing for the last two months. As a pharmacist from Jordan, how do you analyze this situation and its near future?
Thank you for this invitation. It is a great pleasure for me to be with you today. COVID-19 affect the whole world and at the beginning of this pandemic, Jordan was one of a few countries around the world that dealt with it in a highly professional manner ( mandatory quarantine for travelers, All incoming and outgoing commercial flights stopped, the country was in lockdown and during that the government commandeer public transportation to deliver food, medicine and other essentials for the neighborhoods) which helped a lot in controlling this pandemic and led to zero cases at some point of this pandemic for almost 10 consecutive days. However, and due to the economic struggle that Jordan is going through before and during and now after the pandemic, the government had to open the border again and decrease the lockdown severity to allow people to work trying to save the economic situation which Unfortunately led to a first wave in the COVID-19 cases and the last few months a second wave. But thankfully starting April the number starts to go down and I think the numbers will keep going down. I always rely on the Jordanian level of awareness. In my opinion, we will see a decrease in the numbers soon if the government succeeds in getting more vaccine supplies and give opportunities to more people to be vaccinated.
Jordan hosts millions of refugees from different origins. Do you observe a difference in the impact of COVID-19, when compared to native Jordanians?
The global pandemic had speared fears that refugees could quickly overload the country healthcare systems, as a result, the government creates high-level restrictions plans to help to control the pandemic but as I mentioned earlier due to the bad economic situation (one of the causes that led to this bad economic situation was the refugee’s crisis, to begin with) the government had to open back the country and decrease the restrictions level which led to increase in the COVID-19 cases.
Jordan has always been a place that opened its arms to refugees from many countries unfortunately and this becomes a huge burden on our country.
In my opinion, the refugee crisis helped in overwhelmed the healthcare systems and increases the number of COVID-19 cases (because of More people= More exposures= More cases= fewer medical supplies = Less healthcare worker per 1000 population). Moreover, the government is struggling to get enough vaccine that covers the native Jordanian and the refugees. However, Jordan has become one of the world’s first countries to start COVID-19 vaccinations for refugees. What Jordan needs today is help from all the world especially in providing the vaccine in an adequate amount to cover the native Jordanian and the refugees which will help to control this pandemic. Finally, I pray that wars can stop, and peace spread all over the world.
Latin America is observing a secondary displacement of refugees due to COVID-19 and its socioeconomic effects, which deepens the humanitarian issues of the region, and poses a risk of spreading the pandemic. How do you evaluate forced displacement on times of COVID-19 and the manutention of their Human Rights?
COVID-19 became a livelihoods crisis on top of the global health emergency for the people that forced to flee. Unfortunately, this virus ruptured the human life aspect and made the current challenges worsened the forcibly displaced. Some of the restrictions that were made to fight COVID-19 in many countries such as closing the borders made reaching safety for refugees hard and almost impossible in some cases. Also, the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the camps could be high because of the high density of people, fewer supplies, and healthcare workers which makes following the recommendations and practicing social distancing and wearing masks very hard. In my opinion, the world should re-evaluate the forced displacement at times of COVID-19 by creating more options that aim to secure the forcibly displaced and protect their health priorities and their human rights.
FIP YPG recently received an interesting update from the Lebanese Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (LPSA) on their activity in emergency situations, such as Beirut’s explosion and the pandemic. Which are your views on the impact of the pharmaceutical youth on emergencies?
In the middle east, most people have a high level of trust in Pharmacists, and they rely on the pharmacist as a savior in most of the health problems that they face. Therefore, I can say that the role of the pharmacist in any health crisis is crucial because of their impact on people’s health awareness and guidance to avoid or face any emergency.
Unfortunately, the role of the pharmacist in emergencies is barely supported (by emergency preparedness education, training courses, etc.) or even existed in so many countries including the middle east.
However, if we look at Beirut’s explosion which was heartbreaking for all Lebanese, Arabs, and the whole world we can see how great the impact of pharmacists was in responding to this emergency especially the young pharmacists represented by (LPSA) it will give us a motivational reason of why we need to focus on including the emergency preparedness education in our pharmacy setting in future. Because the young pharmacists are the power that will transform the profession of pharmacy to improve global health.
The pharmacist role in humanitarian settings requires different skills than more orthodox roles, while the training of such competencies is limited worldwide. Does FIP have an initiative on the competencies of emergency pharmacists?
I completely agree with you that the pharmacist role in such settings requires more skills and training. FIP has a specialized section which is the Military and Emergency Pharmacy Section (MEPS) that focuses on the emergency pharmacists that work in humanitarian and disaster relief. This section is working on several projects to help increase awareness and develop resources to help pharmacists working in emergencies. I am planning during my new role as the YPG- MEPS Liaison to increase the engagement between this section and the youth pharmacists around the world with the support from the YPG-FIP team. My aim in the near future is to create a program or solid material that helps strengthen the preparedness level for most pharmacists around the world and open their eyes to this section and its specialty.
Do you believe that the pandemic can be a driving force on pharmaceutical education to include emergency preparedness in the curricula and/or continuous education?
In 2018 during my master’s study in the USA, I took Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense (CBRN) graduate certificate program, and I was fascinated by the USA experience and level of preparedness provided to all the healthcare worker (As a first responder) to face such emergencies. I have decided then to work on a project that aims to create a collaboration bridge between the USA and other countries that have limited experience in emergency preparedness, to enhance the level of awareness in such topics in these countries using the abundant USA experience. Unfortunately, I did not see enough enthusiasm towards the project idea in some countries because they did not see how important this topic was. However, I believe the pandemic was an eye-opener for the whole world of the importance of being prepared to face any crisis which can happen by having emergency preparedness education material, training sessions, and collaboration bridges with other countries. I think this pandemic will help in increasing the level of awareness in many countries about emergency preparedness and will support the idea of including it in the curricula and continuous education.