September 2008 in Review
In the spotlight
Executive Committee welcomes two new Global South representatives

On September 22, the Executive Committee approved the creation of two new Committee seats for the Global South and appointed two intergovernmental organizations to fill them: Partners in Population and Development (PPD) and the East African Community (EAC). A familiar face to many in the Coalition, PPD has long been known for its commitment to reproductive health commodity security (RHCS). It has been active, for example, in promoting the interests of generic manufacturers and has commissioned guidelines to assist them in meeting international quality standards. The EAC has also demonstrated its strong commitment to RHCS. In 2008, it completed its Strategic Plan on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)—a substantial document that singles out the importance of harmonizing RHCS across the region. In recent years, the EAC has been the subject of international interest with its proposal to establish a regional intergovernmental “Group Contracting” mechanism for pooled bulk procurement of priority essential medicines and supplies, including reproductive health (RH) commodities. Both PPD and EAC will attend the upcoming Executive Committee meeting, to be held on November 10 at UNFPA in New York. For more information, contact Coalition Director John Skibiak.

Coalition on the scene
ICEC and Ipas join the Coalition

This month, the Secretariat welcomed two new members—the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC) and Ipas. Their arrival brings the total number of Coalition members to 73.

ICEC: ICEC is a partnership of international agencies devoted to expanding global access to emergency contraception and ensuring its safe and locally appropriate use within the broader context of family planning and RH programmes.

Ipas: Ipas was founded in 1973 to reduce abortion-related deaths and injuries and advance women’s SRHR. Ipas trains and equips providers and promotes advances in policy and practice that support access to safe services. Ipas is also a medical device manufacturer with products sold in over 140 countries.

To apply for membership in the Coalition, click here.

Supply Gap analysis nears completion

On September 11, representatives of UNFPA, the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT, Futures Institute, and the Secretariat met by teleconference to put final touches on the new Supply Gap analysis—an update of the original analysis, prepared seven years ago in connection with the 2001 Istanbul conference, Meeting the Challenge. The update, which was identified as an important advocacy need by the Resource Mobilization and Awareness Working Group (RMA WG), was carried out by John Stover and Eva Weisman of Futures, with financial support from the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT.

Soon to be published by the Coalition, the update presents a host of critical observations. It reveals, for example, that recent growth in the demand for public-sector supplies has largely conformed to earlier 2001 predictions. But it also presents a mixed picture with respect to the supply of commodities. Whereas growth in supplies has averaged an impressive 6.3% since the early 1990s, an estimated US$424 million will still be required in commodity support to satisfy all demand for contraceptives in donor-dependent countries. If donor funding were to remain stagnant, the shortfall would be almost US$200 million annually, with a cumulative shortfall of about US$1.4 billion over the 2008–2020 period.

The RMA WG will organize a teleconference in October to review findings of the report and discuss their implications for future advocacy work.

Secretariat gets closer to WHO

On September 9, Maggie Usher-Patel and Helene Moller of WHO visited the Secretariat to discuss several areas of potential collaboration. One such area was the incorporation into the Supplies Information Database (SID) of an additional 600 documents on essential RH medicines, collated by consultant Birgit Kerstens on behalf of WHO. Another was building on WHO's experience with knowledge management strategies, such as the Implementing Best Practices (IBP) Knowledge Gateway. The Secretariat discussed the possibility of supporting a virtual "community of practice" aimed at improving access to RH essential medicines. It also looked at ways the IBP Knowledge Gateway could support more dynamic and interactive information sharing, particularly within Working Groups. Finally, Helene talked about WHO's plans to seek funding for the third phase of the joint WHO/UNFPA/PATH RH Essential Medicines project, which includes the prequalification programme of RH medicines.

Consultant for Global Advocacy work begins

A mapping exercise to examine current activities and gaps in SRHR supplies advocacy got underway with a teleconference attended by a host of Coalition advocacy partners and Mary Jo Lazear, the independent consultant recruited to carry out this assignment. During the discussion, Mary Jo noted that she had begun her literature review and was putting together a preliminary timetable and outline of activities to be completed during the 40 day assignment.

Throughout September and early October, Mary Jo undertook face-to-face and/or telephone discussions with partners in Washington DC, Brussels, and London. In Lyon, she attended the annual strategy session of Countdown 2015 Europe, where she presented an overview of her preliminary findings and observations. For more information, contact Mary Jo Lazear or Ben Light at UNFPA.

Secretariat looks closer to home

Despite Belgium being home to the Secretariat, official contacts between the Coalition and the Belgian government have remained few and far between. And yet in some countries, RH constitutes an important part of Belgian bilateral assistance. All that may soon change following the meeting earlier this month between Coalition Director John Skibiak and Belgian Senator Marleen Temmermans. Temmermans, who is also the Director of Ghent University's International Centre for Reproductive Health, serves as the Head of the Parliamentarian Group on Population and Development, which is supported by the Belgian IPPF member association, Sensoa. In a meeting at the Senator’s office, the two agreed to engage interested parliamentarians as a first step in securing Belgian involvement in the Coalition and RHCS more generally.   

Secretariat changes addresses

Starting October 1, email addresses of all Secretariat staff and departments will carry a new domain name: This transition is part of a longer-term strategy to reinforce the identity of the Coalition in all communications materials. Eventually, the Secretariat hopes to include under the new domain name other related addresses such as the RHInterchange. Although mail sent to the old addresses will continue to be delivered, all replies will leave under the new address. The new addresses of the Secretariat staff are as follows:

John Skibiak, Director -
Steve Kinzett, Technical Officer -
Catherine Potter, Communications Officer -
Guillaume Jaskula, Programme Assistant -
General Secretariat address -
Communications-related correspondence -

Highlights from the Working Groups
Systems Strengthening Working Group (SSWG)

Countries at Risk (CAR): This month, members of the CAR group provided contraceptive shipment updates to eight countries. While USAID expedited a shipment of Jadelle to Malawi to preclude a looming shortage of the same, the group continued to struggle over possible solutions to an imminent shortage of implants in Bangladesh and a severely limited stock of IUDs in Kenya. Discussions continue on these two countries. In addition, the CAR group discussed possible mechanisms for increasing its ability to respond quickly to urgent needs, while recognizing that any final solution will require consultation with other key stakeholders. Finally, USAID shared more information with the group on its recently announced new contract for oral pills with Bayer Schering Pharma AG. This change in supplier will lead to a change in orals supplied by USAID from Lo-Femenal, Ovrette, and Duofem (previously supplied by Wyeth) to Microgynon, Microlut, and Combination3. Contact Kevin Pilz for information.

RHInterchange (RHI): The RHI has just added an exciting new graphing feature that providers of technical assistance and advocates will find of tremendous help in preparing and presenting their reports and analyses. To access the new feature, simply go to the RHI homepage, click on the left box entitled "Select Reports," choose "Value Summary," and then click "Go." For more information or a detailed demonstration of the new graphing feature, contact the RHInterchange team.

Resource Mobilization and Awareness Working Group (RMA WG)

Project RMA: On September 4—5, IPPF assembled six Member Associations, its Project RMA partners, DSW and PAI, and representatives of its regional offices for a two-day meeting to progress the implementation of Project RMA objectives. Held at IPPF's London headquarters, the meeting facilitated south-to-south learning, idea sharing, and problem solving. Member Associations provided updates of their advocacy objectives and successes, details of which can be found by clicking here. Contact Sarah Shaw of IPPF for more information.

One week later, Project RMA Partners IPPF, DSW, and PAI reassembled in Washington DC, where they discussed Project RMA progress and next steps. They noted that, to date, Project RMA has strengthened the capacity of civil society to engage in RH supplies advocacy, including budget tracking; helped generate momentum for RH supplies issues in East Africa; and exploited synergies with other related initiatives, such as the work to integrate RH and AIDS. Representatives of the RHI also joined the group at one point to discuss potential synergies between the two. One idea proposed was the inclusion of a chapter on the RHI in the Coalition's new Advocacy Toolkit. Contact Jess Bernstein of PAI for more information.

September also saw representatives of Parliamentary Committees on Health in East and Southern Africa assemble in Kampala, Uganda for a three-day meeting to advance health equity and SRH in the region. At the meeting, Project RMA chaired a session on RH supplies, and a workshop on the Advocacy Toolkit that was met enthusiastically by all in attendance. One of the aims of the meeting was to discuss options for fair and adequate health care financing and equitable resource allocation, particularly in relation to budget processes. The meeting closed with a formal acknowledgement in the final resolution paper of the need to "prepare and make budget submissions that include necessary resource allocation for SRHR and RH supplies."

On September 23—26, Project RMA together with PPD conducted a workshop on the new Advocacy Toolkit. The session formed part of a meeting for African Partner Country Collaborators (PCC), also in Kampala, that included technical staff from health and population-related ministries tasked with coordinating their country's south-to-south activities. Contact Sabine Weber of DSW for more information. 

Upcoming Events

1 Oct Annual Strategy meeting of Countdown 2015 Europe; Lyon, France
1-2 Oct
SSWG autumn meeting; Coalition Secretariat, Brussels, Belgium; 09.00-17.00 (CET)
3 Oct RHI Management Meeting; Coalition Secretariat, Brussels, Belgium; 09.00-17.00 (CET)
7 Oct Asia Pacific Alliance (APA) General Meeting; Chiang Mai, Thailand
9 Oct MDA WG teleconference; 08.00 (PST); 11.00 (EST); 16.00 (BST); 17.00 (CET)
15-16 Oct                 
7th International Dialogue on Population and Sustainable Development; Berlin, Germany. (see for more details)
20 Oct EPF Parliamentarians Conference on Global Health; Brussels, Belgium
22 Oct Orientation for new Working Group Heads; Coalition Secretariat, Brussels, Belgium; 09.00-17.00 (CET)
29 Oct CAR group teleconference; 10.00 (EST); 16.00 (CET)
4 Nov Formal signing of France's membership in the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Francophonie, Paris 
10 Nov Executive Committee meeting; UNFPA Headquarters, New York, USA
24-25 Nov PPD International Forum: ICPD@15, Progress and Prospects; Kampala, Uganda 

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