May 2010 in Review
In the spotlight
Kampala welcomes the Coalition

On May 27th and 28th, more than 140 participants from around the globe assembled in Kampala for the 11th General Membership Meeting of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition. Hosted by the Ugandan Ministry of Health and the Africa Regional Office of Partners in Population and Development, the event was the Coalition’s first annual meeting to be held outside Europe or North America. As in previous years, the meeting was preceded by a week’s worth of events, including gatherings of the Coalition’s Executive Committee, its three working groups, and the Caucus on New and Underused Reproductive Health Technologies.   

In his opening remarks, State Minister for Health, the Hon. James Kakooza, praised the work of the Coalition while also detailing steps currently underway within his own country to strengthen RH commodity security. These included the launch of a new five-year strategic plan on commodity security as well as the allocation of substantial government funding for RH, and supplies in particular. Mr. Kakooza also acknowledged the work of Uganda’s IPPF affiliate, RHU, which—in honor of the meeting—had put up billboards around Kampala, urging politicians to allocate funding for RH supplies.

This year, the agenda focused heavily on voices from the field, with case studies being presented from Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Honduras, and Bangladesh. Participants were also treated to the launch of three new videos, including the short documentary “Empty-Handed”, copies of which were later distributed at the CNN African Journalist of the Year award ceremonies, held on 29 May in Kampala. And in a true first for the Coalition, more than 60 member organizations signed letters to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, host of next month’s G8/G20 Conference, urging him to ensure that funds be committed “ improve maternal health...and to ensure that the systems are in place to effectively procure and distribute much needed RH supplies.” Copies of the meeting agenda and all presentations are now available on the Coalitions website.

Coalition on the scene
Harmonizing Approaches to Quality Assurance of Hormonal Contraceptives

An interagency consultation meeting was held this month in Washington, DC, with the aim of better harmonizing quality assurance practices in the procurement of hormonal contraceptives. The meeting, which was jointly hosted by UNFPA, WHO, JSI, and Marie Stopes International, touched on issues such as product registration, the costs of quality certification, and the market incentives in place to pursue certification. The group also explored strategies to minimize risk when buying non-WHO-certified products. Finally, participants agreed on the need for a new, WHO-led Expert Review Panel on hormonal contraceptives, whose purpose will be to provide an interim mechanism for contraceptives being procured that have not yet attained WHO prequalified status.

A full report from the meeting is available on the Coalition website. Please contact Steve Kinzett at the Secretariat for more information. 

Maternal health supplies reports now available on Bangladesh and Uganda

At the Kampala membership meeting, PAI released two new reports that examine the factors inhibiting universal access to four key maternal health supplies in Bangladesh and Uganda: oxytocin, misoprostol, magnesium sulfate, and manual vacuum aspirators. The reports examine the maternal health context of each country, including health systems, policy environment, and the logistics and financing of maternal health supplies. The reports also identify key development partners and relevant entry points for advocacy. The reports are available on PAI's website. Please contact Elizabeth Leahy Madsen at PAI for more information.

World Bank highlights work of the Coalition

This month, the World Bank released a new five-year plan aimed at reducing high fertility and maternal and child mortality. In its Reproductive Health Action Plan 2010-2015, the Bank highlights the importance of RH commodity security and singles out the Coalition as a key development partner in the effort to minimize stock-outs, shipment delays, and under- or over-supply of commodities.

Coalition’s newest members

This month, the Coalition welcomed two new members, bringing our total membership to 113:

  • Bem Estar Familiar no Brasil (BEMFAM): Since 1967, BEMFAM, Brazil’s IPPF member association, has provided a wide range of RH services, including contraception, antenatal care, and prevention and treatment of STIs, HIV/AIDS, and cervical cancer. 
  • Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE): As Ethiopia’s  IPPF member association, FGAE has been providing comprehensive RH services for more than 40 years. FGAE delivers SRH services through clinics, youth centers, and 250 outreach sites. 
Highlights from the Working Groups
Resource Mobilization and Awareness (RMA WG)

RH supplies film debuts in Zambia, at Women Deliver, and beyond: The advocacy film Empty Handed: Responding to the Demand for Contraceptives made its premiere at the Coalition’s annual membership meeting in Kampala. The film, produced by PAI with financial support from the Coalition's Innovation Fund, demonstrates the impact of stock-outs and supplies shortages. Following Kampala, the film screened in Zambia to audiences of NGOs, MOH staff, and donor agency colleagues. At a media workshop, nearly 50 Lusaka-based editors and journalists—from TV, radio, and print—watched the film, asked questions about the contraceptive situation in Zambia, conducted impromptu background interviews, and headed home with DVDs in-hand. Subsequent screenings are scheduled to take place among Zambian government officials and, in the coming months, among parliamentarians in Malawi. Finally, Empty Handed was pitched at the recent Women Deliver conference in Washington, DC. The film has thus far been distributed to 150 US Congressional offices and will be screened at a high-level European Union event on RH supplies in preparation for the MDG summit this summer. Please click here to view the film. For more information, please contact Wendy Turnbull at PAI.

Advocating for unmet need in Ghana: The Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) has produced the short film It’s time to Take Charge, which highlights the human impact of unmet need for family planning. The film is part of a national communications campaign aimed at persuading the government to include free contraceptives in the National Health Insurance Scheme. Please click here to view the film. Contact Sarah Shaw at IPPF for more information.

Systems Strengthening Working Group (SSWG)

AccessRH and RH Interchange Update: In May, Access RH  welcomed a new staff member and completed interviews for four more positions(Demand Planner, Contracting & Admin Associate, System Architect, and Business Analyst). The following activities were also completed:

  • Analyzed historical order data to determine initial order quantity for inventory start-up.
  • Received approval within UNFPA for inventory funding of US $10 million.
  • Preliminarily discussed PGH and AccessRH joint promotional efforts.
  • Reviewed manufacturer survey analysis, a study supported by the Coalition’s Innovation Fund.
  • Held the first meeting of the Advisory Group.

Countries at Risk (CAR): The Countries at Risk group has changed its name—it is now the Coordinated Assistance for Reproductive Health Supplies group (CARhs). This name was chosen as it more accurately reflects the work of the group and allows the group to keep its widely recognized acronym. This month, the CARhs provided information on upcoming shipment information to assist RH supply chain management for 12 products in eight countries:

  • UNFPA reprogrammed contraceptive procurement funds for Nicaragua to DMPA procurement, to relieve a central-level stock-out. 
  • USAID and UNFPA planned emergency shipments of DMPA for Mali to prevent a stock-out there. 
  • USAID also expedited a planned shipment of combined oral contraceptives to Senegal to preclude a stock-out, as central stocks reached minimum levels. 
  • USAID cancelled shipments of combined oral contraceptives to Liberia and of progestin-only pills to Uganda as these products are overstocked in-country.

The CARhs also learned that DFID is making a significant grant to UNFPA to address the financing gap for contraceptive supplies in Uganda. Current or impending RHCS stock-outs in Tanzania and Peru were also discussed. Please contact Kevin Pilz for more information. 

Caucus on New and Underused Reproductive Health Technologies (Caucus)

Caucus moves forward: Caucus members met in Kampala this month prior to the Coalition’s membership meeting. In a wide-ranging discussion, participants reframed the goal, purpose, and approaches of the Caucus and identified activities for the coming year, including the identification of opportunities within Working Group workstreams to pursue the development of Caucus-related guidelines, tools, and Innovation Fund support. A teleconference will be held on Tuesday, July 13th at 1100 EST to discuss activities and next steps. All Coalition members interested in being a part of the Caucus are welcome to join. Please contact Bonnie Keith for more information.

Upcoming Events

1 June Deadline for Round 5 Innovation Fund applications
7-9 June Women Deliver Conference, Washington, DC
14-18 June Global Health Council Conference, Washington, DC
24 June MDA Teleconference
28 - 30 June Regional Conference on RHCS—A decade of policy implementation: Achievements and outstanding challenges in achieving contraceptive security in LAC, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
30 June CARhs Teleconference
6 July The role of RH Supplies in Achieving the MDGs, Brussels. Contact Steve Kinzett for more information.
13 July Caucus on New and Underused RH Technologies Teleconference
7 October Achieving Universal Access to RH, a technical meeting hosted by IPPF EN and Countdown 2015 Europe, Brussels. Contact An Huybrechts for more information.

For more details on the above and other events, see the events calendar on the Coalition website.

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