Shaping our community’s response to a global supply crisis

20th April 2020

What started in December last year as a small cluster of COVID-19 incidences has changed the face of health and healthcare forever. The world is a significantly less safe place than it was six months ago. Alliances – national, regional, global – are struggling in the face of the virus’s ravages. Borders have closed, countries are prioritizing their own interests over others’, and in the scrum of saving ourselves, it is easy to lose track of the poorest, the most marginalized, the voiceless.

We have seen the reproductive health (RH) supplies landscape take a beating: supply chains are breaking down and manufacturers are experiencing widespread staffing issues and, ultimately, closures. COVID-19 has placed urgent demands on countries’ time and resources, sidelining RH concerns into the wings.

As a membership agency with 500+ members, our responsibility at the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition is to rise above the din of headlines, statistics, and opinions, and to help the community sharpen their focus on what is most important for us – getting women and girls in low- and middle-income countries the RH supplies they need and can use. To that end, we’ve gone back to who we are and what we do best, and we have applied our unique Levers of Change in the following ways:

  • As many global political conversations falter, we are leveraging our safe, neutral space to balance often divergent perspectives: long-term objectives versus short-term needs; supply chain imperatives versus service delivery challenges; and policy directives versus program needs. We are helping manufacturers register their struggles, while at the same time convening our community at large to understand better the rapidly evolving supplies landscape. 
  • We have called on our brain trust of experts to help identify solutions to the problems COVID-19 has wrought. We have tapped our Contraceptive Commodity Gap Analysis to understand better the relationship between patterns of method use and a more effective allocation of limited supplies. Under the umbrella of the Global Family Planning VAN, we are assessing the risk of supply chain disruptions on orders, shipments and plans. And we have called on our Coordinated Supply Planning group and CARhs to anticipate and address distribution in the face of new supply constraints.
  • As longstanding alliances and partnerships come under pressure, we are busy brokering partnerships, both old and new, and creating opportunities for new product sourcing, entries into new markets, and forging better procurement terms.

We are putting the weight of our good name behind everything we do. We are imploring the wider RH community not to falter on all the progress we have seen in sharing supply chain data and in using that data for decision making. And finally, we are calling upon the world’s leaders, as they carry on with the tireless struggle to put out blazing fires, to remain ever mindful that today’s funding and program decisions will determine how effectively we address the RH health needs of women and girls in the future.

Further reading:

Joint Statement on the Importance of Continued Family Planning Data Sharing and Collaboration (English / French)

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