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Volume 10, No. 2FALL 2007

We Deliver: The Dramatic Growth in IOCC’s Gifts-In-Kind Program

The West African nation of Niger is the latest country to benefit from IOCC’s GIK program with a medical shipment of medicines that treat high blood pressure, heart failure and stomach ulcers. photo courtesy of MTI

In just three years from 2004 to 2006, IOCC’s Gifts-In-Kind (gifts of goods other than cash) program has dramatically increased from $3 million to $19 million. School kits, wheelchairs, new books, hygiene kits, toys, surgical supplies and critically needed medicines have been shipped to Zimbabwe, Albania, Serbia, and the West Bank. Biljana Mihajlovic, IOCC Desk Officer and a 14-year veteran of the organization, has been managing IOCC’s Gifts-In-Kind (GIK) program with IOCC Consultant Frank Carlin since 2004. Mihajlovic talks about the growth of GIK and its impact on IOCC’s projects.

N&N: What is the process for GIK and the key to a successful shipment?
Mihajlovic: First, the IOCC field office or a local partner identifies a need for a specific product. The field office may need a commodity that complements an existing project. You must find a reliable supplier in the United States and be well aware of local government customs regulations such as the expiration date rule, and what kind of documents are necessary in order to customs-clear the shipment duty-free. You absolutely must have a reliable partner on the ground that is a registered agency permitted to accept humanitarian goods. If goods have to be stored, you must make sure that the storage area is clean, dry and secured. Finally, you need a good distribution plan.

N&N: What was your most dramatic GIK shipment?
Mihajlovic: Two kits of antibiotics and surgical supplies worth $100,000 that were delivered to Lebanon shortly after the ceasefire last summer. Less than a week after the war started we decided to organize a shipment with our partner, Medical Teams International (MTI). A reliable medical supplier in Europe was chosen because of their proximity to Lebanon. They put together the two kits which met the standards of the World Health Organization to cover the needs of 20,000 patients for three months.

N&N: Since both the Beirut airport and the Port of Lebanon were closed, how did you get it into the country?
Mihajlovic: To get the health kits into Beirut when most of the roads were closed was quite a challenge. After spending several days on the phone with our office in Beirut and different carriers in the U.S.A. and Europe, we realized the safest route was to go through Syria. We immediately contacted the Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, which has been an IOCC partner for previous projects in Syria. They met the shipment at the Damascus Airport and arranged for the supplies to be loaded onto trucks for the 220-mile road trip to St. George Hospital in Beirut.

N&N: Does IOCC accept GIK from individuals?
Mihajlovic: We do not accept GIK from individuals. Only partner agencies can provide necessary certifications to attest for the quality of the commodities and enable us to customs-clear the shipments duty-free overseas.

N&N: How has the GIK program contributed to IOCC’s expansion into Africa?
Mihajlovic: Some of IOCC’s first projects in Africa were GIK projects. For example, our first project in Zimbabwe last summer was a $1.5 million shipment of surgical supplies and medicines used to treat patients suffering from HIV/AIDS. When we heard how well the shipment was received and how desperately a country like Zimbabwe needs such supplies, we decided to assist them with more commodities. We will be sending three more shipments this year to Zimbabwe with a total value of over $1 million. We have just sent a shipment of medicine to a hospital in Niger in cooperation with our partner, MTI. That shipment included medicines to treat high blood pressure, heart failure and stomach ulcers.

N&N: What is the future for GIK?
Mihajlovic: I think GIK has great potential. We are looking into other commodities such as agricultural equipment and seeds that would complement IOCC’s vast experience in agricultural projects overseas. The beauty of GIK is you can obtain a new commodity at a discount price that is in perfect condition and add it to a program that is being funded with cash and you immediately enhance the value of the program many times over.

If your business wants to participate in IOCC’s GIK program, please contact Biljana Mihajlovic at bmihajlovic@iocc.org.


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