Essential COVID-19 supply chains in sub-Saharan Africa strengthened by new funding

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Health supply chains are struggling to reach vulnerable communities to provide essential equipment such as PPE.
Health supply chains are struggling to reach vulnerable communities to provide essential equipment such as PPE.
At a UNICEF warehouse, soap and buckets are loaded on a truck as part of the COVID-19 response.
At a UNICEF warehouse, soap and buckets are loaded on a truck as part of the COVID-19 response.

Some of the most vulnerable communities in sub-Saharan Africa will have their access to COVID-19 resources strengthened thanks to a ‘last mile’ programme implemented by the People that Deliver (PtD) and UNICEF UK, funded by international philanthropy the FIA Foundation.

Health supply chains will be improved to ensure vulnerable and isolated communities can receive critical supplies to address the growing threat of COVID-19 through a €300,000 grant from the FIA Foundation. The People that Deliver (PtD) is a global partnership of organisations focusing on the professionalization of the health supply chain workforce.

With this funding PtD will implement the ‘COVID-19 Grand Challenge for Health Supply Chains’ which seeks solutions to critical health commodity transportation and logistics challenges that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in sub-Saharan African countries, at the last-mile. This will provide critical catalytic and seed funding for transportation and logistics organizations with operations in the region. The Grand Challenge will be managed and administered with support from UNICEF UK and UNICEF Supply Division. Four projects in sub-Saharan Africa will be identified through the UNICEF Supply Division tender process to receive funding.

The ‘last-mile’ is a critical logistical challenge for healthcare and other essential items to communities most in need across many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The final short journeys in poorly connected areas to directly reach those in need can be difficult. It is a challenge amplified by the speed and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that delays can make the difference between life and death.

Funding will directly support local transportation and logistics organisations linked into the overall COVID-19 response and global WHO coordinated strategy. Initiatives may include: emergency logistics; supply chain management; surface transport contracting; fleet operations, transportation and workshop management; and home delivery initiatives for vulnerable patients in need under lockdowns. This funding comes at a critical period, the WHO urged African countries to scale up COVID-19 response at the end of March and since then the number of confirmed cases across the continent has increased dramatically.

Saul Billingsley, Executive Director of the FIA Foundation, says: “Access to COVID-19 supplies will mean the difference between life and death in many rural and isolated communities across the sub-Saharan region. The logistics of the supply chain in low- and middle-income countries is an often overlooked area of international development, but it has never been more critical. We are proud to support this innovative programme with People that Deliver and UNICEF UK that will help to save lives in this global emergency.”

Dominique Zwinkels, Executive Manager for the People that Deliver, expressed her gratitude to the FIA Foundation for their recognition of this cadre of workers who are putting their lives at risk. “As global and national supply chains are disrupted and delayed, health supply chain workers need specialized resources and support to do their jobs. Pharmacists, logisticians, supply chain managers, data managers, warehouse, transport personnel, and many others – are the professionals who are collectively tasked to ensure health supply chain management.”