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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Advocacy Document for Reproductive Health Commodity Security
ISSUE 41 - 06 October 2004
One of UNFPA's key priorities is ensuring reproductive health commodity security, a task that is absolutely essential to the success of the ICPD Programme of Action. We are devoting Issue # 41 of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update to this subject because of its critical importance and the serious shortfalls we face in this area.
Reproductive Health Commodities Save Lives
Good reproductive health programmes depend on a reliable supply of certain essential commodities. When supplies are inadequate, or are interrupted, even well-planned interventions may falter and lives may be lost. Hence the slogan: No product, no programme.
As the 10th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development approaches, UNFPA and its partners are intensifying efforts to ensure that the growing need for quality contraceptives, essential drugs and other reproductive health commodities is met.
Clearly, a reliable supply of reproductive health commodities is essential for achieving the goals set forth ten years ago at Cairo, as well as those agreed on at the Millennium Summit. The importance of these essential items comes into sharp relief when supply shortages, or stock-outs, occur. These shortages take an enormous toll. For instance:
* Women die unnecessarily in childbirth when drugs, or transfusion supplies, to save them are not available.
* Individuals who want to be tested for HIV unwittingly spread the virus because no testing kits are on hand.
* Morale in hospitals or health clinics declines because doctors and nurses donâ€™t have the equipment or supplies to carry out life-saving interventions.
* Soldiers who have been educated about sexually transmitted diseases and responsible sexual behaviour canâ€™t get condoms before going on leave because the base has a stock-out.
* During humanitarian crises, when contraceptives are not available, women face unwanted pregnancies and resort to unsafe abortions.
We can educate, inform and motivate individuals to choose healthier behaviours. But we are failing them if the supplies they need to protect their health and their reproductive choices are not continuously available to them.
Tracking Commodity Requirements at the Press of a Button
Reproductive health commodity security demands the ability to track commodities and predict when and where stocks are getting low. A new user-friendly software program the Country Commodity Manager has greatly enhanced the capacity of UNFPA and developing country governments to analyze and forecast commodity supplies.
Launched in 2003, the Country Commodity Manager encourages governments to take ownership of commodity security by giving them greater capacity to anticipate future needs and potential shortfalls. The tool is helping UNFPA and governments to better plan for the replenishment of depleting stocks of contraceptives and other medications and supplies in a timely manner.
The Country Commodity Manager software has become available at a time of severe shortages and limited donor support. It was designed to promote greater efficiency, reduce waste and prevent stock-outs through the rapid dissemination of accurate and time-sensitive information.
Reproductive Health Commodity Security (RHCS) is achieved when women and men everywhere can obtain and use the reproductive health supplies of their choice whenever they need them.
Regional Workshops Suggest Ways to Strengthen Commodity Security
Partnership with governments is a crucial part of the Global Strategy for Reproductive Health Commodity Security (http://www.unfpa.org/supplies/strategy.htm). As a way to strengthen these partnerships, UNFPA recently conducted a series of six regional workshops to discuss reproductive health commodities and reporting requirements for the Fund's new information database (see above).
During the workshops, participants suggested a number of ways for streamlining operations at the regional level and improving overall effectiveness. The workshops, attended by over 300 UNFPA staff and national counterparts, provided another opportunity to strengthen the RHCS policy dialogue by highlighting its relevance in the context of health sector reform, sector-wide approaches (SWAPs) and national poverty reduction strategies, thus also contributing to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
The resulting recommendations have led UNFPA to step up efforts to:
* Plan regional initiatives to prevent commodity shortfalls and meet local needs.
* Standardize different brands or buy generic products, where possible, to maximize cost effectiveness and speed delivery times.
* Work closely with social marketers on HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.
* Ensure procurement of quality products at the best possible prices.
* Share knowledge and lessons learned regionally.
* Improve national capacity on logistic management.
* Offer additional training and advocacy for policy integration and sustainability.
Rising Demand and Falling Support Create Severe Shortages
UNFPA tracks and forecasts supply and demand as part of its leadership role in implementing the Global Strategy for Reproductive Health Commodity Security. A combination of factors have led to severe shortages. In 2002, developing countries faced an unfilled resource gap of $125 million that could have prevented large number of maternal deaths or millions of unwanted pregnancies.
The following factors underscore the critical need to achieve the goals of the global strategy:
More People of Reproductive Age: Today, more than one billion people are between 15 and 24 years of age. They are entering their reproductive lives as the largest-ever generation of young people.
Increased Demand and Rising Costs for Contraceptives: The number of contraceptive users is projected to increase more than 40 per cent between 2000 and 2015, due to population growth and the success of family planning programmes. The cost of quality contraceptive commodities is projected to increase from $810 million to $1.8 billion between 2000 and 2015.
Increases in HIV/AIDS: HIV transmission rates are still on the rise. In a few countries, as many as 40 per cent of all pregnant women are estimated to be infected with HIV. The fact that 75 per cent of infections are acquired through sexual transmission makes condoms essential for HIV prevention. In addition, each year there are some 340 million new cases of other sexually transmitted infections.
Decreasing Donor Support: Donor support is decreasing even as needs and costs rise. Meeting the increased demand for reproductive health commodities will require a sustained flow of adequate funding and close coordination among recipient countries and donors to avoid gaps or duplication.
The content of this issue was provided by the Commodity Management Unit (CMU) of the Technical Support Division (TSD) of UNFPA.
All previous issues of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update can now be found on UNFPA's website at: http://www.unfpa.org/parliamentarians/news/newsletters.htm.
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (November 2002, Ottawa, Canada). These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can be kept informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow parliamentarians in other countries and regions in their efforts to promote the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (September 1994, Cairo, Egypt). It should be noted that UNFPA does not necessarily endorse all of the policies described in this newsletter.
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