Picture a remote village in western Africa, and a mother walking 5 kilometers to the nearest health clinic with her ill 4-year-old son for a malaria test. She knows the symptoms and understands that early diagnosis and immediate treatment are critical to his survival; she has lost one child to the parasite already. When she arrives, the health worker tells her he can perform a blood-smear test, but adds that if her child needs treatment, the clinic is out of stock of oral antimalaria drugs. It’s the start of the annual rainy season, and recent flooding means the roads in this remote region of the country will be inaccessible for several days, perhaps weeks.
This scenario is fictional, but in many parts of the world the problem is all too real: small clinics on the “last mile” of the health supply chain lack the predictive tools and support necessary to forecast potential inventory outages, or stockouts, of medicine and other health supplies. The health supply chain is the backbone of any country’s health system. For too many people, the integrity of the global health supply chain (GHSC) is a matter of life and death. Yet solutions exist. To get life-saving health supplies where they need to go demands meticulous planning and coordination down to the very last mile of the most remote road and village. Multiple actors along the chain — the public and private sector and donor organizations — must cooperate from end-to-end for health products to arrive intact and on time.