Addressing Stockouts

There can be no better illustration of dysfunctional supply chains than empty spaces where a drug or medicine should be. Whether it is a bare shelf in a clinic or an empty delivery van sitting idly at the warehouse, the consequences of that empty space are nearly always the same: an individual whose health, even life, is now put at risk.

How to reduce the scourge of stockouts has long been a question for development professionals. Over the years we have seen new approaches and we have seen the reinvention of old approaches. Of course, successes abound.  But across the Global South, empty shelves remain a fact of life—a reality that continues to affect not just health supplies but everything from basic foodstuffs to major utilities. Unsurprisingly, it has proven difficult to sustain these successes in the face of a reality where shortages are a pervasive and accepted part of everyday lives.

Addressing stockouts of life-saving supplies, therefore, is as much about getting people to care, as it is about fixing the bottlenecks that prevent supplies from reaching those who need them. For that reason, the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition has embarked on a new approach to combat stockouts. It is a journey that calls upon the strengths of all players: advocates to raise awareness and overcome complacency; technical experts to address inefficiencies in the supply chain; and researchers to put a human face on the impact of stockouts—on people’s lives and on the health system more broadly.

What will the Coalition do?

  • Formulate a common language for measuring progress in the battle against stockouts.
  • Pilot innovative approaches for leveraging the diverse skills needed to address stockouts, both globally and at country level.
  • Draw worldwide attention to the problem of stockouts, especially in the world’s poorest countries.
  • Learn and disseminate the lessons of past successes at reducing the frequency, duration, and scope of stock-outs.


Take Stock mobilizes public health leaders, facilitates the development of a common language we can all use to talk about stockouts, and gathers the commitments needed to spur real action.

Take Stock now