November 2011 in Review
In the spotlight
Dakar shines the spotlight on RH supplies
This month’s International Conference on Family Planning offered the Coalition an important platform for celebrating advances and key successes in commodity security, while at the same time refocusing attention on the unfinished business of ensuring access to RH supplies.
Over the course of a very busy week, Coalition members found themselves actively engaged in working group meetings, regional forums, and other specialized gatherings. One such gathering was an auxiliary session on commodity security, organized by the Coalition itself. During the four-hour session, participants were treated to the multimedia presentation, Meeting the Challenge of a New Decade; heard Carolyn Hart speak on the evolution of the supplies movement; and listened to representatives from industry, government, and the nongovernmental sector discuss the implications of the Call to Action, formulated last June at the Access for All conference. The session closed with the official launch of the Access for All final report.
Throughout the rest of the week, the theme of commodity security was rarely off of people’s radar screens. Britain’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Stephen O’Brien, announced increases in funding to UNFPA’s Global Programme, including £10 million in support for the Coalition’s CARhs group, and additional resources for procurement of implants and female condoms. In the days that followed, Coalition members could be seen chairing panels, sharing tools, and hosting interactive sessions on commodity security, including an IBP Knowledge to Action session underscoring the importance of tools such as RH Interchange.
Dakar allowed us to showcase a remarkable year and an even more remarkable decade. We thank those who made our presence possible and extend a special note of gratitude to Dr. Amy Tsui and her team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute of Population and Reproductive Health, as well as our host, Dr. Bocar Daff, Director of Reproductive Health, from the Coalition's most recent governmental member, the Senegalese Ministry of Health.
Coalition on the scene
A banner month for the female condom
Stephen O’Brien, Britain’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, chose the conference in Dakar to announce DFID's commitment of £5M to UNFPA for the purchase of female condoms (FCs). At current prices, this translates into about 13.5 million units; but by committing resources upfront and working alongside others to negotiate with manufacturers, the potential exists to secure even higher volumes and save more lives.
Under-Secretary O’Brien’s announcement enhances the Coalition’s efforts to increase product access across a range of commodities through price reductions, more efficient procurement, and innovative financing. Earlier this month, Coalition Director John Skibiak invited FC advocates to join in that effort at the close of the Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Joint Programme's biennial meeting in The Hague. On the previous day, both he and Mr. Christaan Rebergen, Special Ambassador for the MDGs and Public-Private Partnerships with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were officially presented with the first copies of UAFC’s new implementation guide on female condom programming. For more formation on Under-Secretary O’Brien’s speech or the UAFC meeting, please contact John Skibiak.
New financing for the CARhs
For the first time in its history, the Coalition’s CARhs (Coordinated Assistance for Reproductive Health Supplies) group will have at its disposal the financial means to extinguish some of the fires it has been so successful at spotting. As part of DFID’s recently announced funding increase to UNFPA, £10 million have been set aside for use by the CARhs. The funds will allow the group to address commodity shortfalls not otherwise amenable to existing financing mechanisms, and/or to avert emergency financing gaps before they occur.
As the CARhs looks ahead at the prospect of new resources, its work this month focused on requests from three countries. In Burundi, it facilitated the order of six million condoms for a new military HIV/AIDS prevention programme. In Tanzania, it averted a potential overstock by postponing a shipment of combined oral contraceptives. And in Nigeria, it saw the first signs of success in efforts to clear RH commodities through customs. Contact Joe Abraham (UNFPA) for more information.
HANDtoHAND launches new Metrics Task Force
The success of the HANDtoHAND Campaign will depend in large part on its ability to measure change, document increases in contraceptive use, track reductions in unmet need, and inspire action by demonstrating success. This month, the Coalition took an important step in that direction with the establishment of a new Metrics Task Force, a forum where the focus is very much on numbers—which ones to measure, when to do so, and how to put them to use. At DFID headquarters, representatives from the Coalition Secretariat, Alan Guttmacher Institute, Futures Institute, MSI, the Alliance for RMNCH, and DFID discussed a number of monitoring strategies, including two designed to measure change under HANDtoHAND. One will apply the methodology of Adding It Up to estimate global unmet need for modern contraception; the other will focus on changes in a select number of countries, including those likely to contribute the greatest number of additional users by 2015. For more information on the new Metrics Task Force, please contact John Skibiak.
Were we all wrong on stock-outs?
Most of us think we know something about the “true nature” of stock-outs—how they happen, why they occur, and what can be done to prevent them. This month, 90 participants bridged 15 time zones to debate just that—and hopefully contribute to making contraceptive stock-outs a thing of the past. They did so by participating in an online webinar during which consultants from McKinsey & Company described the results of a recent landscape analysis on contraceptive shortages in Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, and Uttar Pradesh. Hosted by the Systems Strengthening Working Group and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the webinar provoked lively discussion—and debate—over the causes of commodity shortages and the range of solutions available to address them. The discussion identified a broad range of factors—from structural weaknesses in the supply chain itself to the lack of political commitment at national level. It also highlighted the difficulties in isolating cause and effect.
Minutes of the webinar will soon be available online. And you can be sure the Coalition and its partners will soon be leveraging this platform again in the future. If you or your organization is interested in co-hosting such a discussion on a topic of interest, please contact Gloria Castany with the Secretariat.
Maternal Health Supplies Task Force holds initial meeting
On 14 November, the Maternal Health Supplies Task Force (MHSTF) held its inaugural meeting at PATH's offices in Washington, DC. The MHSTF was created at the request of representatives from the maternal health community, particularly those who attended last June’s Access for All meeting in Addis Ababa. It builds on work currently underway by Coalition members, such as PAI and PATH, and non-members focused on MH supplies. At this first meeting, participants explored ways the Coalition could add value to work already underway within the MH community to improve access to supplies. They also discussed strategies for disseminating information to the MH community at large. The MHSTF will next meet via teleconference on 9 January, please contact Bonnie Keith for more information.
Cupid becomes the Coaliton’s newest memberThis month, the Coalition welcomed its newest member, Cupid Ltd., a manufacturer of female and male condoms based in Mumbai. Cupid has supplied its female condoms to several countries, including South Africa, Mozambique, Indonesia, India, Holland, and Brazil. The addition of Cupid Ltd. brings the Coalition’s total membership to 156.
Highlights from the Working Groups
Systems Strengthening Working Group (SSWG)
Leadership announcement: David Smith announced this month that he will step aside as SSWG Leader, beginning in 2012. For the past three years, David has been a dedicated and pragmatic leader, seeing the group through many successful activities and new initiatives. The election process for a new SSWG Leader is now underway, following procedures developed recently by the RMA WG for its own elections. The procedures call for the formation of a nomination committee, the drafting of a terms of reference (TOR) for the Leader, approval of the TOR by WG members, and a call for nominations. Voting will take place online so that a new leader can be in place by the end of January 2012. Please contact Bonnie Keith with any questions.
Market Development Approaches Working Group (MDA WG)
MDA WG launches Quality of RH Medicines initiative: This month, the MDA WG hosted a teleconference, announcing the launch of a new initiative addressing quality assurance for RH medicines. Entitled “the Quality of RH Medicines Project” or QuRHM, the new initiative will be led by the Concept Foundation, with funding from DFID through the Coalition. It will bring together stakeholders in the field of quality assurance and drug manufacturing to provide technical assistance to manufacturers, with the ultimate goal of adding 25 new RH products and seven active pharmaceutical ingredients to the WHO prequalified list. During the teleconference, MDA WG Leader Ben Light and Concept Foundation representatives Peter Hall and Lester Chinery highlighted the need for openness and transparency and encouraged participation from across the Coalition. For more information, please contact Ben Light of the MDA WG.
Resource Mobilization and Awareness Working Group (RMA WG)
PAI and Advance Family Planning announce new small grant mechanism: A small grant fund for RH supplies advocacy at the national level is now open for business, thanks to a new joint initiative between Advance Family Planning and PAI. The fund is intended to provide local CSOs in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda with resources to pursue strategic advocacy activities. Awards will range from US$10,000 to US$20,000 and activities must be completed between January and August 2012. For more information, please contact Wendy Turnbull or Mercedes Mas de Xaxas of PAI.
RMA solidifies workplan and looks to contribute to the 100 million metric: Members of the RMA WG met for a half-day session in Dakar to reflect on the new workplan and ask how the group’s work can contribute to the goal of reaching 100 million additional users of modern contraception. In presenting the workplan, members focused their attention on existing gaps in the group’s ability to carry out the workplan objectives and how to best mobilize support to address those gaps. With regard to the discussion of the HANDtoHAND Campaign, a special task force will be set up to focus on RMA’s specific contribution. For more information, please contact RMA WG Co-Leaders Leo Bryant (MSI) and Martin Ninsiima (AFP Uganda).
Francophone Forum (SECONAF)
SECONAF makes notable strides in Dakar: More than 30 members of SECONAF met on the eve of the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar to update one another on regional commodity security initiatives and identify opportunities to add value to them. Potential activities include participation in a regional early-warning system for commodity stockouts, increasing public awareness and support for RH commodity security, and strengthening the capacity of public-health logisticians.
A dire need for more information was underscored by all of SECONAF’s working groups, as well as the importance of dedicated resources to undertake this landscaping work. Members also recommended the creation of a governing board, the identification of a facilitator based in the region, and the selection of focal persons in each of SECONAF’s participating countries. Finally, all agreed on the need to link more strategically with the Ouagadougou Initiative. For more information, please contact Lou Compernolle or Gloria Castany of the Secretariat.
For more details on the above and other events, see the events calendar on the Coalition website.