The UN Commission for Life-Saving Commodities (UNCoLSC) “Atelier d’échange: Pratiques et ressources pour améliorer l’accès aux treize produits vitaux pour la santé des femmes et des enfants” (in English, “Workshop to Promote Exchange on Practices and Resources to Increase Access to the 13 Life-Saving Commodities for Women’s and Children’s Health”) on took place last month in Dakar, Senegal. The workshop was made possible through a collaboration between the UNCoLSC and Securité Contraceptive en Afrique Francophone (SECONAF, the regional forum for Francophone Africa of the Reproductive Health Supply Chain Coalition), and followed the SECONAF Annual Meeting.
As lead organizer for the workshop, I was honored to be part of an incredibly rich and productive discussion on ways to improve access to the 13 essential medicines and related reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) services that could save an estimated 6 million women and children by 2017. Almost 60 participants and facilitators representing 16 sub-Saharan African countries, came together with experts from the Supply Chain and Local Markets Technical Resource Team (TRT), the Advocacy TRT, RMNCH Strategy and Coordination Team (SCT) to share experiences implementing the tools and resources developed by the UNCoLSC over the past two years. In addition to plenary sessions about the history of the UNCoLSC and its future, and an overview of the Recommended Indicators to Address In-country Supply Chain Barriers, participants had the opportunity for a deep dive into one of three tracks: Advocacy, Quantification, or Tools for Data Management.
The Advocacy for Life-saving Commodities for RMNCH introduced participants to the Advocacy Toolkit to Increase Access to Life-Saving Commodities, which provides resources raising awareness and engaging stakeholders in addressing commodity-related gaps in national plans, policies and initiatives, and in advancing the implementation of the UNCoLSC’s recommendations. Moreover, as one participant reported, it allowed for implementers from different countries to interact and share their experiences using different advocacy strategies.
In the Quantification: Improving access to products and medicines for mother and child survival track, participants learned about forecasting and quantification techniques specifically developed for the 13 life-saving commodities. The commodity-specific focus of the workshop was very much appreciated—one participant approached me during the workshop to tell me that, although he had experience in quantification, learning the commodity-specific strategies for increasing the accuracy of forecasting was invaluable.
Exchanging lessons learned and implementation steps for [supply chain] tools CommCare Supply, DHIS2 and OpenLMIS was very important. – Roland Kyedrebeogo, Dimagi
The Implementation of Tools for Data Management for Logistics and Health Service Delivery: CommCare Supply, DHIS2, and OpenLMIS track was a forum to learn and exchange about automation of information systems using the tools supported by the UNCoLSC. As facilitator Roland Kyedrebeogo of Dimagi said, “This was an opportunity for participants to discover and have demos on the three tools: CommCare Supply, DHIS2 and OpenLMIS. These three tools address their challenges, and [exchanging] lessons learned and implementation steps for all tools was very important.”
Substantial effort was put into choosing facilitators and co-facilitators with experience implementing the tools and resources in low and middle income countries and to design sessions that encouraged participants to share their experiences with one another. This effort paid off, and many attendees told me how much they liked the interactive element of the workshops, and appreciated the ability to engage in discussions and dialogue with their colleagues working in other countries. Overall, this workshop was an excellent experience in sharing knowledge and resources to improve access to the life-saving commodities.
 Participant evaluations of the workshop
 Facilitator evaluations of the workshop