Sub-Saharan projects awarded ‘Last Mile’ COVID-19 supply chain funding

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Supply chains in sub-Saharan Africa are struggling to reach many vulnerable communities to provide essential healthcare equipment.
Supply chains in sub-Saharan Africa are struggling to reach many vulnerable communities to provide essential healthcare equipment.

The four awardees of the ‘Last Mile Health Supply Chain COVID-19 Support’ Grand Challenge, a regional catalytic and seed fund supported by the FIA Foundation, have been announced as: GreenLight Initiative in Nigeria; SafeBoda in Kenya and Uganda; VillageReach in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); and Transaid in Zambia.

The Grand Challenge is administered by People that Deliver (PtD) – a global partnership of organisations supporting the health supply chain workforce – and UNICEF to address health commodity and logistics challenges in sub-Saharan Africa now, and in the future, thanks to a €300,000 grant from the FIA Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Fund.

The ‘last-mile’ is a critical logistical challenge for healthcare and other essential items to communities most in need across 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. After an extensive selection process, PtD has selected the four awardees who will be developing their programmes over the next six months.

GreenLight Initiative is a non-profit organization based in Nigeria with the mandate to improve road safety, logistics and transportation safety in Nigeria. Their Grand Challenge project will focus on safety training for truck drivers transporting medical supplies and ambulance drivers transporting COVID-19 patients to educate them about COVID-19 safety protocols. GreenLight will partner with the Ambulance/Transportation System for COVID-19 Response in Nigeria under the Federal Ministry of Health’s Hospital Services Department.

SafeBoda is an organization operating in Kenya and Uganda that began as a motorcycle ridesharing service. The company has expanded to deliver health products directly to customers’ doors. PtD’s Grand Challenge will support the scale-up of SafeBoda’s SafeHealth initiative which aims to support more than one million low- and middle-income customers access to healthcare supplies while avoiding unnecessary journeys that raise the risk of COVID-19 exposure. In the short-term, this initiative will help ensure health supplies, protect the livelihoods of more than 22,000 motorcycle drivers who would otherwise be unemployed during the pandemic. The project also has the potential for scale-up to communities as a long-term solution for reliable access to healthcare supplies.

Transaid works with partners and governments to solve transport challenges in developing countries. It has already worked with the FIA Foundation to develop COVID-19 responses in Zambia by adapting its MAMaZ against Malaria (MAM) at Scale outreach network to include COVID-19 messaging and resources to support more than 200,000 Zambians across five rural districts prepare for the challenges of COVID-19. Using the Grand Challenge funding, Transaid will collaborate with the Ministry of Health in Zambia to develop training content specific to the challenges faced by professional drivers to ensure they have access to up-to-date and accurate information on COVID-19 based on current national guidelines. It will also develop a COVID-19 module to be included in truck and forklift truck driving training.

VillageReach focuses on innovations that address the unique needs of weak health systems with an emphasis on strengthening the ‘last mile’ of healthcare delivery. Since 2017, VillageReach has been supporting the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) government to implement a streamlined supply system. With the help this new funding, VillageReach will ensure that community health workers in DRC receive the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by embedding the supply into the functioning transportation system and supply. It will also provide the logistics workforce the information and training they need to respond to additional demands put on the supply chain during the pandemic.

Saul Billingsley, Executive Director of the FIA Foundation, said: “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. These four awardees across the sub-Saharan region will help to save lives in this global emergency and, furthermore, show practical solutions which can secure essential healthcare supply chains to improve public health in the future.”