||Uganda : Mobile phones and digital technology to boost vaccine delivery in Uganda
||Thousands of children living in the densely populated districts of Wakiso, Nakaseke and Nakasongola in central Uganda will get better access to life-saving vaccines thanks to a new collaboration between the Uganda Ministry of Health, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UPS and Freight in Time Ltd (FIT). The 18 month pilot project will use a customised mobile app and a wireless temperature monitoring system to help address supply chain challenges in 171 health facilities in three districts with the some of the lowest immunisation coverage and the highest number of unimmunised children in the country.
Our main challenge is the last mile distribution of vaccines, said Dr Opar Bernard Toliva, Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) manager in the Uganda Ministry of Health. While some districts in Uganda are distributing vaccines all the way to the health centers, in the majority of cases the health facilities have to pick up the vaccines themselves. This can cause challenges for health clinics due to lack of transport and time thus preventing children in remote areas from being protected with vaccines.
The number of people in the worlds poorest countries who have access to a mobile phone has skyrocketed in recent years, said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The use of mobile devices and the availability of digital technology in countries like Uganda can help us improve the supply chain, real time data gathering and analysis. Our work with UPS and FIT will play a pivotal role in identifying specific areas in the delivery chain where we face the most challenges and will help us find a cost-effective solution that, ultimately, can help us drive equitable coverage to help us reach all children in Uganda with vaccines.
The project will increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of vaccine delivery through a transport solution model specifically designed by UPS and FIT. With real-time data and analytics, it will also improve the visibility of supply chain performance: for the first time Ugandas National Medical Store (NMS) will receive an overview of the entire supply chain in the three districts. This will allow for more accurate vaccine stock records, forecasting and planning. In addition to providing the latest technology and tools available, UPS and FIT will also bring innovative supply chain solutions to Uganda and build real capacity. For instance, teams on the ground will teach health clinic workers how to manage vaccine stocks, use the apps to understand consumption data and then use that information to order vaccines. The teams at the national and district vaccine stores will now have visibility on the stocks in each clinic so can plan their supplies more efficiently and effectively.
Collaborations such as this one illustrate the importance of public private partnerships as so much vital work can be accomplished together, said Eduardo Martinez, president of The UPS Foundation and chief diversity and inclusion officer. UPS is leveraging its expertise in healthcare logistics and its vast network of organisations we work with to strengthen public healthcare systems. Its both humbling and gratifying to be able to assist in the delivery of life-saving vaccines to children in Uganda.
As an East African logistics service provider, FIT will leverage its local market knowledge and regionally-developed services. UPS, as a global leader in the sector, will provide the strategic management advice and will share best practices to ensure the success of the project.
UPS has had a long-standing relationship with Gavi. Their joint collaboration with a U.S.-based start-up called Zipline began a blood-delivery service in Rwanda in 2016. It uses drones to deliver medical products to remote, hard to reach areas in a matter of minutes, rather than hours or days. In the future it is expected that drones will be able to deliver vaccines, like those for rabies, to people who need them.
Despite the enormous progress made in boosting vaccination coverage in Uganda over the past few decades, recent estimates show that coverage for the basic Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis vaccine (DTP3) is stalling at 85%. Thousands of children in remote areas continue to miss out on vaccines, mainly due to weaknesses in the supply chain, including information management, vaccine distribution planning and frequent stock-outs.
In a nutshell, we expect to increase the availability of vaccines at the health clinics, reduce stock outs and decrease waste, said Shamit Shah, CEO of FIT. We aim to accomplish this while creating effective communication, building capacity in the health facilities/vaccine stores, and, ultimately achieving transparency and accountability in the local vaccine supply chain.
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