Super Sized Care Packages for the Needy
Danielle Butin, MPH ’91, was familiar with the data on health inequities between the United States and low-income countries. Even so, she was shocked on a trip to Tanzania to learn that physicians there lacked even the most basic medical supplies, to the extent that surgeons were forced to make their own sutures by pulling apart packets of gauze.
A veteran of the executive suite of a Fortune 500 health insurance company, Butin knew where to find extra sutures. Every year, millions of dollars of unused and perfectly safe supplies are discarded by hospitals due to strict regulations. In 2007, she founded Afya—“good health” in Swahili—to redirect these materials from the landfill to areas in need around the world. In the 10 years since, the organization has shipped over 200 cargo containers to 72 countries.
Afya is a rescue operation, say Butin, saving everything from bandages to ultrasound machines for people who need them the most, from residents of Haiti affected by the 2010 earthquake to, more recently, refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. Each shipping container holds between $200,000 and $1 million in supplies. “No one likes waste,” she says, “especially when what’s being wasted is so desperately needed.”