Ogilvy Africa partners with Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital to launch campaign aimed at tackling medical waste

Ogilvy Africa has partnered with Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital to launch a campaign dubbed DispoSafely aimed at tackling the growing issue of medicine and pharmaceutical waste disposal.

The initiative is designed to promote awareness on the care of medicine and safe disposal mechanisms to ensure the safe collection and disposal of unused and expired medicines aimed to prevent medical waste from ending up in the hands of the public or contaminating our soil and water systems.

Despite policy guidance on pharma waste disposal, there is a lack of execution in the public domain. The low public awareness of disposal mechanics, lack of infrastructure for collecting and safe disposal of pharma products, high cost of waste management, and dumping of pharma and medical waste into garbage all contribute to the problem.

Recent research in low and middle-income countries show increased availability of unused or expired pharmaceuticals, especially post-COVID. A study by MDPI suggests that more in-depth research is necessary in Africa. Based on the study conducted in Nairobi, the findings show that knowledge of the safe disposal practices of unused medicines is relatively weak.

“A large percentage of respondents believed that throwing unused medicines in the garbage bin (28%) or flushing them down the toilet (25%) was an acceptable disposal practice. Therefore, there is an urgent need for an awareness campaign to educate the public on the importance of safe disposal practices for pharmaceutical waste to protect human health and the environment,” said the study.

To address these issues, Ogilvy Africa and Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital have developed DispoSafely, a three-pronged program that aims to increase consumer awareness, facilitate the collection and disposal of unused medicines through accredited chemists in Nairobi, and provide social gratification for safe drop-offs. Infrastructure for the safe disposal of unused and expired medicines will also be created.

“We are delighted to support Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital in developing this scalable model for safe pharmaceutical waste disposal,” adds Vikas Mehta, CEO Ogilvy Africa. “There is a serious lack of awareness amongst the general public about the health hazard we create every time we throw away old medicines in our garbage cans. DispoSafely is an attempt to bring about systematic behavior change that would protect our environment and reduce public health risks.”

“When we recklessly dispose of pharmaceutical products, we not only contaminate the land and water, but we also risk fueling the dangerous trade of reselling these products to vulnerable communities, thereby endangering both the environment and populations. This initiative is a step forward towards achieving a sustainable and healthier future for all,” said Dr. Robert Nyarango, Chief Executive Officer Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital.

Commenting on the project, Ogilvy Africa’s Chief Creative Officer, Delna Sethna, said: “As a creative agency, we are always searching for ideas that can truly make a difference in the world. DispoSafely is one such idea. It is essential that we promote the safe disposal of expired and unused medicines to protect our environment and prevent harmful substances from ending up in our water systems, landfills, or even the black market. We are honored to be part of this initiative and aim to create a significant impact by promoting a change in behavior on how we dispose of medicines and pharma-waste.”

Through this initiative, Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital and its satellite clinics in Nairobi will be used as drop-off points for unused and expired medicines and pharmaceutical products for safe disposal and incineration. While the initial rollout will be in Nairobi, Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital and Ogilvy Africa are open to partnering with more organizations from across the country to scale up safe collection and disposal of pharma-waste.