On October 17, 2011, the Pan-African Parliament adopted a landmark resolution to support maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH), which could be a real milestone in accelerating progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. While African parliamentarians are encouraging their countries to prioritize financial and policy action for MNCH, I urge countries specifically to invest in one of the most critical components of any health system that serves mothers and children: the supply chain.
Public health supply chains are notoriously under-resourced and neglected elements of most health systems. The U.S. Agency for International Development, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the President’s Malaria Initiative have been leaders in devoting resources to improving public health logistics, but these donor initiatives can go only so far. Country leadership and ownership are required to make life-saving products flow reliably to the people who need them.
The work of the Government of Rwanda and the USAID | DELIVER project provides a great example of how investment in the supply chain can be instrumental in fulfilling a growing demand for contraceptives and, as a result, improving overall health. In Rwanda between 2004 and 2006, stock-out rates for the four major contraceptive methods declined significantly, and the country saw a sevenfold increase in the use of modern methods from 4% in 2000 to 27% in 2008. We talk a lot about “stock-outs”—this example shows what “stock-ins” enable!
Those of us who’ve worked on supply chain management for public health products in resource-limited settings know that the job is difficult, but do-able. The latest statement of commitment by African parliamentarians to their constituents is heartening news. We know country investments in their health supply chains must be part of how these commitments are put into play, or else they won’t realize their potential.
Director of the Washington office of John Snow, Inc., and JSI’s Center for Logistics Services
(Former senior manager on the Family Planning Logistics Management and DELIVER projects at JSI, the precursors to the current USAID | DELIVER PROJECT)