Sun. Feb 21st, 2021
Countries strengthen health supply chains with support from UNICEF and WHO

The WHO Regional Office for Europe and UNICEF Supply Division have extended their support to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Uzbekistan in optimizing the performance of their supply chains to ensure timely delivery of medicines and health products.

Countries in the European Region had repeatedly experienced supply chain challenges, such as shortages of antigens, stockouts and interruptions in immunization services (1) despite marked improvements over the last decade. The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic has further disrupted international, regional and local supply chains, undermining national response efforts and putting a strain on other critical and routine health interventions.

To address these barriers, UNICEF and WHO, with the support of the Global Fund, are uniting their technical resources and expertise to support the health authorities of those 5 countries. The integrated teams will establish the development needs in the countries’ supply chain management systems, identifying and quantifying their supply chain strengths, gaps, and opportunities as the basis for organizing and implementing improvement plans.

Evaluating and strengthening national supply chains

Acting as the lead agency on this exercise, WHO/Europe is leveraging its convening power to engage in multistakeholder consultations and conduct a government-led and participatory health supply chain assessment using the UNICEF supply chain maturity model. The tool, which has been deployed in 21 countries globally since 2018, enables health and other government officials to review the performance of 13 critical operational and technical supply chain functions.

This exercise provides government decision-makers with a formal baseline for each supply chain area, links targeted priority investments against evidence of need, outlines technical assistance needs from Partners, and leads to the development of national supply chain-strengthening response plans that expand access to essential medicines and health products for all.

Concurrently, the interventions will highlight the strengths of supply chain modeling with a clear opportunity to share best practices and promote cross-learning opportunities within the Region.

The outcome will help ensure successful transition of countries towards financial and technical sustainability as they migrate from the Global Fund support. It will also determine countries’ readiness level and management capacity for the deployment of the COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

The evidence gathered through these assessments will be instrumental for these countries in directing and targeting the needed investments to achieve an equitable, fast and efficient rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and beat the pandemic.

Contributing to these global efforts within the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator collaboration umbrella, WHO/Europe and UNICEF are expanding the scope of the UNICEF supply chain maturity model to assess the resiliency and health emergency preparedness capacity of national supply chains to withstand future shocks, operate at minimum scale, or increase people’s access to, and use of, health services and commodities.

The tool is currently available in English, French, Spanish and Russian.

The launch of an online version of the maturity model and associated user guidelines on UNICEF’s Agora learning platform will provide additional opportunities for governments to take ownership of the tool and review the progress of the interventions deployed as part of their implementation roadmap.

This story is published jointly by WHO and UNICEF.

(1) WHO/UNICEF Joint Reporting Forms (JRF) 2010–2019 data

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