Thoughts from the Last Mile Welcome to the VillageReach Blog
10.24 2016

In 1972, The UN General Assembly agreed to mark October 24 each year as World Development Information Day in order to draw the world’s attention to development problems and the need to strengthen international cooperation to solve them. The Assembly felt that improving the dissemination of information would lead to greater awareness of the problems of development, and thus, promote efforts in the sphere of international cooperation for development.

img_1017_benin_2014At VillageReach, the last mile of delivery is the first mile of information. Data is the pulse that drives our work – the fundamental core of our programming strategy. Without information, we are working in a state of assumptions and half-truths, and fervently hoping we are right. Want evidence of this principle? Of the four blog posts we published this month alone, three focus directly on information – what goes into collecting it, the insight it provides, and an example of how it all comes together!

Read full story

10.19 2016

Last week, the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC) brought together hundreds of the top minds in global reproductive health issues at the Coalition’s 17th Annual Meeting. This meeting provided a forum for discussing the many triumphs and continuing challenges of reaching 120 million additional women with reproductive health services by the year 2020. Access to reproductive health commodities allows women to decide if and when to have children. This ability is not only a human right, it can be a life or death situation for many women and young girls. Increasing access to reproductive health is also one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to reduce infant and maternal deaths.  As an active member of the RHSC’s System Strengthening Working Group, VillageReach eagerly engaged in this week of conversation and idea exchange. Many of the central themes reflect the work of VillageReach, allowing us to bring our experience and expertise to the conversation while learning and growing from the experiences of our partners.

Read full story

10.13 2016

Communication is constant and ubiquitous – something we do with nary a thought throughout our lives. It’s so natural in fact that we tend to take it for granted. After all, when was the last time you engaged in a meta-conversation about the efficacy of a discussion you just finished? Alternatively, when did you last work on improving your lexis or grammar? If you’re like me, it’s been a while. Because our communication styles seem perfectly adequate for our daily personal lives, we tend to focus on more pressing concerns. For a technologist, that likely involves implementing some aspect of a project… and failing. Lack of communication is often the problem.

A Clinic on the river in Benin

Software shops don’t tend to advertise it, but programming and IT are risky business. An IBM study found that nearly 60 percent of projects fail and that human, rather than technological, factors play a dominant role. Miscommunication is among the surest ways to kill a project. Sponsors may be misinformed about progress and withdraw support after subsequent disappointment. Business analysts may misunderstand users’ needs, developers may misinterpret analysts’ requirements, and because software development is often a collaborative endeavor, developers may even misunderstand one another. A lot can go wrong and — statistically — probably will. Our collective communication skills are simply not as good as we’re inclined to think.

Read full story

10.03 2016

untitled-design-2Simple ideas can be powerful – a point driven home during my recent trip to Uganda. While I was there, I had the opportunity to tour the Ugandan national medical stores, where medicines for the entire country are warehoused. The head of sales and marketing showed me how each and every commodity that the Government of Uganda procures is marked as a way to safeguard against theft. Every layer of packaging is embossed: “GOVERNMENT OF UGANDA. PUBLIC USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE.” Even individual tablets are marked “UG.” The government builds this requirement into its procurement contracts with suppliers. I walked away completely floored. What a simple yet brilliant idea to solve a persistent supply chain problem.

Read full story

09.28 2016

In late August, VillageReach welcomed a team of Wharton Business School students to work on a short-term pro bono consulting project, aiming to develop a diversification strategy for VillageReach in Mozambique.  Although the team spent only nine days on the ground in Maputo, the project had been months in the making, starting with an initial dialogue between Ruth Bechtel, the Mozambique Country Director, and Wharton team leader Joelle Birge back in fall 2015. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, these four students were inspired to travel to Mozambique by their common interest in international development and global health. Joelle describes the work this team accomplished:

oneProject planning began with a series of calls between VillageReach and the Wharton team to refine the project scope and map out work plans and deliverables. Together with VillageReach, we decided that one of the best ways to leverage the team’s time in Maputo would be conducting interviews with public health stakeholders to gain an outside-in perspective on current areas of need and opportunity.  Over the course of the spring and early summer, we conducted research on donors, NGOs and government organizations operating in Mozambique public health and used this research to work with VillageReach on defining a list of priority stakeholders to interview.  This interview list served as the jumping off point for structuring the our on-the-ground work in Maputo.

Read full story

09.20 2016

final-20-report-coverWhile visiting rural health units outside Montepuez district in Mozambique, I met a mother at Naioto clinic. It had taken her two hours to get to the facility, with a baby on her back. She was happy to stand in a queue for vaccines for her baby because vaccines were available. The nurse at the clinic, Ana Bendita Miguel, remembers times when she had to turn these mothers away. Prior to ensuring regular, monthly distribution of the provincial delivery truck, it wasn’t uncommon for Bendita to ride a bus to the district centre, a difficult trip of 68km to collect vaccines. In addition to taking Bendita away from seeing patients at the clinic, the bus fare cost her 240 MZN (around $3.30), which was not refunded. In those days she said, “when I didn’t have money for bus fare, I couldn’t prevent the stockout.”

Read full story

09.19 2016

VillageReach is always seeking out new ways to improve access to quality healthcare at the last mile, and new partners that allow us to do this. Over the weekend, VillageReach president Evan Simpson presented at the Med25 Benefit dinner. Med25 is an exciting global health organization that provides quality, culturally appropriate and affordable health care by encouraging the creation of local, income-generating businesses that support healthcare initiatives. Together, VillageReach and Med25 are partnering to explore how the Med25 model can be brought to new communities. At this recent event, Evan Simpson shared his insights on the potential impact of this partnership:

Read full story

09.15 2016

dscn3648Transformational change does not always happen overnight. In the case of immunization supply chains (iSC), real transformational change requires iteration. It is a process of continuous improvement: cycles of thinking, testing, and improving to constantly push the system forward. While the final result might be a complete redesign of the end-to-end supply chain, each step along the way is a necessary part of getting to a better model. Sometimes the wheels of change move quickly, when political will is aligned with resources and capacity. Sometimes the wheels move more slowly, during phases of learning and refining new ways of doing things. With any large-scale change, the key is to never stop moving forward.

Read full story

09.09 2016

Reposted from Next Billion

truck4_moz_2014Vehicle graveyards are an all-too-common sight for those of us who work in global health. These long-forgotten vehicles serve as reminders to the underlying obstacles faced by transport systems throughout Africa. Routine maintenance required to keep cars, trucks and motorcycles moving simply does not happen, shortening the lifespan of the vehicles that are essential to delivering health commodities to the most remote communities.

For the donor community, these vehicle graveyards are a reminder of the weak return on investment for these expensive, short-lived machines. Many institutions are declining to fund the capital expenditure required to purchase vehicles, parts or storage facilities. Insufficient capital is just one of the contributing factors limiting the transport capacity of a health system.

Read full story

09.02 2016

Emmanuelle Assy 2016The goal for global health innovation is to identify successful approaches and move them to scale – reaching as many underserved communities as possible with improved access to quality healthcare. Sometimes this is accomplished with new partners or transitioning greater ownership to country governments – but sometimes successful scaling is about sharing what we’ve learned.

Emmanuelle Assy’s job is just that. As VillageReach’s Immunization Supply Chain Improvement Manager, Emmanuelle works with stakeholders, partners, and governments around sub-Saharan Africa to introduce and explore new tools and approaches that challenge the status quo of existing supply chains. For example, she leads computer simulation modeling exercises, which help countries understand different options for making an immunization supply chain more efficient and cost effective. By reducing the risk to bold new ideas, these modeling exercises help government stakeholders think more broadly about their supply chain system and the importance of system design.

Read full story

Newsletter Sign Up

By providing your email address you agree to receive periodic email news from VillageReach.


Support Life-Saving Innovation

Your tax-deductible contribution supports new solutions, partnerships and advocacy – starting at the last mile.

Donate Today