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Thoughts from the Last Mile Welcome to the VillageReach Blog

Tag Archives: public health

08.30 2017
The first distribution of the Next Generation Supply Chain Initiative at the Konongo Health Center in DRC.

I am proud to announce that last month a team composed of provincial government and VillageReach staff successfully conducted the first direct distribution of vaccines and family planning commodities in the Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Under the Next Generation Supply Chain Initiative, this constitutes a major milestone worth celebrating. It represents more than a year of planning and advocacy to engage government leaders and partners (UNICEF, ECC CORDAID, SANRU, OMS, and Croix Rouge) to take bold steps toward change to ensure more reliable delivery of vaccines and other essential health commodities to “the last mile”, often the most remote and hard-to-reach communities in DRC.

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08.04 2017
CCPF hotline workers settling into the new call center in Lilongwe

This week, Chipatala cha pa Foni (CCPF) or “Health Center by Phone” moved its operations from Balaka, a rural community in southern Malawi, to its new facility in the capital city of Lilongwe. As we packed up the phones, headsets, and files, I was struck by how symbolic the moment was. This move is more than a change of location. It represents the progress of CCPF many years in the making: from a maternal and child health service in one district to a comprehensive health hotline accessible to more than 5 million people across the country. From this new facility, CCPF will have the proper infrastructure and operational capacity to become Malawi’s first government-run national health hotline, a goal we are on track to reach by December of this year. At that stage, the service will be accessible to over 17 million Malawians. Having supervised this program for one and a half years, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with the Government of Malawi Ministry of Health, our dedicated CCPF teams, and all of the donors and partners who have made this day possible.

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02.17 2017

At the 2017 African Union Summit, Heads of State endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization, which demonstrates convincing political support to improve equitable access to vaccines.  Now countries must embrace the hard work required to deliver immunizations and other health commodities to all citizens. Only when governments lead with a strong vision, supported by donors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in a collaborative effort, will large-scale impact be achievable. In places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), new approaches are bringing the government together with these groups – and seeing greater collaboration between donors in support of government efforts.

Motorbike on a canoe.
Transport in remote parts of DRC include boats and motorbikes.

Leaders in the DRC have committed to overhauling the country’s dozens of supply chains, developing a highly-functioning, efficient system capable of reaching even the most remote populations. The terrain and sheer size of the DRC make this uniquely challenging. Health officials recognize that traditional supply chain models are not sufficient, and are actively seeking new approaches. But they cannot do it alone. VillageReach is one of many organizations supporting the government’s quest to develop, test, implement and scale strategies that can improve this essential mechanism for providing healthcare.

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02.10 2017
Dr. Chan and me on the University of Washington Campus

One of the highlights of University of Washington’s symposium celebrating ten years in global health was seeing the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan. Dr. Chan was charming as ever, with a spring in her step and a smile on her face. Perhaps it is because she is nearing the end of her term (her successor will be chosen during the upcoming World Health Assembly) that despite moments of levity, her words had a more sobering ring.

Dr. Chan painted a complex picture of the world in which global health professionals work.  We are confronting new diseases and old diseases, dealing with post-antibiotics and post-truth. She warned the attendees that some believe a long-standing social contract has been broken and “we are now living in a world that has lost its moral compass”. Before we could wallow in our collective struggle, Dr. Chan laid out four priorities to help guide health policies and programs.  Here’s what they mean for our work at VillageReach.

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01.10 2017

With the New Year upon us, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the most important milestones that you, our partners and donors, have helped us to achieve this past year. With your support, we are reaching more people, proving the potential of emerging innovation, and working with new partners to increase access to quality healthcare at the last mile.

Reaching More


_x8a8078Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (CCPF, or “Health Center by Phone”) expanded
 to three additional districts in Malawi, reaching an additional 400,000 people, and ensuring that mothers like Patuma have access to health information, advice and care, no matter where they live. Airtel remains central to this growth as we work with the Ministry of Health towards national scale-up. New ventures like CCPF for Adolescents and collaboration with Johnson & Johnson are helping to enhance the quality of the service and expand its
potential to reach and serve more.

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01.06 2017
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Patuma and her family outside her home in Malawi. Patuma used CCPF to get information about her daughter’s Epistaxis.

I recently returned from a trip to Malawi where I had the opportunity to visit several families who have benefited from Chipatala Cha Pa Foni, or Health Center by Phone, a toll-free health hotline in Malawi that connects individuals directly with trained health workers who provide information, advice and referrals over the phone. One of those visits was with the Richards family who live in Kazondo Village in Balaka, a district in southern Malawi.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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