SIDON, Lebanon: As a response to Lebanon’s growing social and health crises, individual and community initiatives have sprung up, catering to the needs of poor and deprived families facing an economic collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, citizens are dealing with the latest crisis: an alarming medicine shortage in pharmacies, as the rise in prices has left many pharmacies struggling to afford and provide medicine.
"The Benevolent Pharmacy" is a health-related charitable initiative in Sidon. Based on social solidarity, Abed al-Majed al-Adwi, a 56-year-old volunteer, spoke to The Daily Star about the project he started after noticing that many ill people could no longer buy medicine, either because of the shortage in supplies, or being outpriced.
As such, the idea was launched eight months ago to help sick people in need.
Adwi explained that it was not a regular pharmacy as defined by law, but rather a charity initiative. It operates by collecting medicines from donors then redistributing them at no cost to beneficiaries.
The initiative aims as much as possible to alleviate the financial burden on ill people who have had their lives upturned as a result of the country’s instability; the rise of the Lebanese pound-US dollar exchange rate, and the scarcity of drugs in the country.
“The success of the initiative was not easy. It needed thorough work and confidence; especially after writing in our slogan that we do not accept money to buy medicine, but instead accept medicines donated,” Adwi said.
He said another challenge for sourcing donations was attempting to be distinctive “among dozens of other initiatives.” But through advertising efforts on social media, and spreading the word among friends, the initiative became “a go-to for ill people.”
One customer of "The Benevolent Pharmacy" is Um Imad, who told The Daily Star she was grateful to receive chronic drugs to treat her arteries, as well as an inhaler to help with her breathing. She said she thanked God for those silently helping.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Fadwa, who declined to give her surname, explained how the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis had left her without work and consequently struggling to afford medication for her high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels. “But then I found this merciful and helpful place,” she said.
Despite setting up the health initiative, Adwi has no background in medicine; he has not majored in pharmacy or ever worked in one. But instead, he sought help from volunteers experienced in the field.
“Many people admired the initiative and some of them joined until we formed a complete team; including someone with a doctorate in pharmacy, as well as a pharmacist assistant and an experienced volunteer,” he said.
Adwi said that the pharmacy currently served around 60 people a day, adding that it “has emptied more than four times, but we were able to recollect medicines and continue.”
He revealed he had big hopes to expand the pharmacy’s reach across Lebanon and to support all ill people, whether “they are Lebanese, Palestinians or Syrians, with no regard to race.”