Strengthening Supply Chains to Respond to COVID-19

August 5th, 2020 | Viewpoint


As countries around the world respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, already strained health supply chains are being tested. Yet the COVID-19 emergency response depends on these health supply chains, which are essential for ensuring that frontline health workers have the supplies and medicines they need to fight the virus.

As attention and resources focus on the pandemic, health supply chains must continue their equally important daily operations and prevent disruptions. We are beginning to understand the devastating potential of these disruptions on immunization, family planning, maternal and newborn health, and HIV services and supplies.

For the past 40 years, JSI has worked with country governments, NGOs, and other partners in more than 60 countries to build health supply chains that meet people’s health needs and are resilient enough to withstand shocks, such as the one that COVID-19 has delivered. In many countries where we work, we are supporting the urgent supply chain needs to mitigate the pandemic.

In Zambia, our USAID DISCOVER-Health project is helping procure equipment and supplies. We are contacting suppliers to determine what can be sourced locally and what must be ordered internationally, and determining lead times for critical supplies. DISCOVER-Health also asked JSH, a local JSI affiliate, to help track the supplies that the U.S Government and other donors have delivered to Medical Stores Limited, the government agency focused on procuring, storing, and distributing essential medicines. JSH is now adapting the country’s electronic logistics management information system to track COVID-19 commodities and supplies to enable facilities to use them prudently and ensure that they reach intended beneficiaries. 

In Ethiopia, through the USAID Digital Health Activity (DHA), we have created systems to support the Ethiopian Food and Drug Administration’s (EFDA) efforts to accelerate the availability of critical personal protective items. DHA developed a system to enable EFDA to control hand sanitizer quality as part of the electronic regulatory information system that facilitates registration and import approval for food and medicines. We have also developed a simplified process to expedite licensing and registration for COVID-19 supplies.

In Tanzania, JSI is a partner with Guidehouse on the Global Health Supply Chain – Technical Assistance project. As part of the government’s COVID-19 response, the project is helping to implement emergency supply chain guidelines. Our support includes quantification and supply planning and end-to-end COVID-19 supply chain data visibility.

In Pakistan, the U.S. Embassy recently announced the delivery of new equipment to health facilities in Mohmand District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. With funding from the United States Agency for International Development, JSI’s Integrated Health Services Strengthening and Service Delivery Activity supported the procurement of these essential medical supplies, as well as training for health care providers to use it.

In many countries, we are working with government counterparts to ensure supply chain considerations in COVID-19 planning and to minimize supply chain disruptions. At the global level, we are: 

Outlining key considerations for vaccine introduction in health systems and the associated supply chain requirements.

IMPACT teams model virtual meetings for sub counties to help promote social distancing.

IMPACT teams model virtual meetings for sub counties to help promote social distancing.

Through the JSI-managed
International Association of Public Health Logisticians, a community of more than 7,500 professionals from 150 countries, we are facilitating multiple moderated discussions in which members ask and answer each other’s pandemic-related questions; offer technical support and practical advice for overcoming emerging and ongoing challenges; debate ethical quandaries; and exchange and promote professional support tools including webinars and eLearning opportunities. 

We have provided guidance to our country offices on supply chain considerations for continuing family planning service and product availability. Our staff in Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria have moved to virtual platforms to continue supply chain support while travel is restricted. While no one knows when the pandemic will end, we at JSI are using our expertise to help our partners mitigate supply disruptions until that day arrives. 

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