14 November 2012

Rwanda: Health Professionals Discuss Health Supply Chain Management

Over a hundred health professionals from 23 countries world wide yesterday converged in Kigali for the fifth Global Health Supply Chain Summit to discuss the improvement of the supply chain in health sector.

The three-day summit, held in Africa for the first time, was organized by the International Association of Public Health Logisticians (IAPHL) in collaboration with the University of Southern California and London Business School.

David Sarley, a senior program officer working with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, explained that the summit is an opportunity for the participants to learn from each other so that they can gain access to current information about the supply chains, the operating environments, as well as networks and solutions to leverage.

"One of the things we will try to learn is how to manage the security of your supply chain," Sarley explained. "We want to make sure that the chain is done properly to ensure the quality of the drugs."

Besides the supply chain, counterfeit drugs has emerged as another issue of concern that health sector is facing worldwide, a matter described by Sarley as a "big problem."

"One of the challenges is to make sure that the suppliers are professionals to ensure that there is a security."

Commenting on the concern, Dr Pierre Claver Kayumba, the acting director general of Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), said they are forced to buy drugs on a small market where laboratories of high quality have approved the standardization of the drugs. He explained that they do so as the country suffers lack of competent laboratories that can test the drugs.

Over the years, Kayumba noted that that there has been great improvement in drugs supply in the country where they established a mechanism to supply medicine countrywide.

"We used to have a lot of people at the country's drugs procurement agency (CAMERWA) queuing for drugs, but it's no longer the case because the agency now supplies the drugs across the country," he explained, adding that they even recently distributed vehicles that take drugs from district hospitals to health centers.

However, the official noted that the supply chain in Rwanda still faces serious issues of lack of local drugs manufacturers; thus making imperative to rely on imported drugs. But he mentioned that they are working with investors so that there can be local drug manufactories, though he admits that it's a long-term project as it requires a huge investment.

Concerning competent laboratories, he said that there is a draft law that is meant to establish a national body that will be in charge of drugs standardization; the body that he said will also be equipped with an excellent laboratory.

The Summit features two days of educational sessions on three key topics - understanding and managing risk in the supply chain, taking supply chain innovations to scale, and benchmarking supply chain performance. The third day will be dedicated to "open space technology" and discrete meetings, including educational content and networking for members of the IAPHL.

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