Zambia improves access to 200 life-saving drugs


A new medical supply chain pilot project, supported by the World Bank, Zambia’s Medical Stores Limited (MSL) and other various stakeholders, will be launched which will use sophisticated analytics and mobile technologies to better manage medicine inventory and delivery.

“With help from our partners, we have already introduced simple improvements in the medical supply chain that will save the lives of thousands of children across our country by 2015,”said Dr Bonface Fundafunda, chief executive officer at MSL.

According to Zambia’s public health sector, 100,000 deaths are registered annually due to preventable and treatable diseases. The goal of the project therefore is to make medicine widely available when it’s needed.


Zambia’s Ministry of Health stated that they will introduce innovative technology to manage the medical supply chain and control its usage, supply and availability within their public health space.

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“The solution will provide a real-time view of drug usage and stock while analysing data to identify trends and forecasts to prevent gaps in the medical supply chain,” said the Ministry in a statement.

The country has partnered with the multinational technology and consulting firm, IBM, in order to use the company’s medicine supply forecast model.

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This IBM model takes into account a region’s local conditions such as its rainy season, lead time and differences in each district’s demographics.  This will then allow MSL to determine the best means of distributing the drugs across an initial 2,190 health centres.

 “Zambia is taking strong action to prevent avoidable deaths by testing and deploying new methods to get drugs to people on time,” said John Makumba, operations officer at the Africa health unit of the World Bank.

“Supply chains are invisible and low profile, but when they don’t work, there are terrible consequences.”

Through IBM’s Analytics capabilities, the model will also enable staff at the health centres in three Zambian districts to use mobile devices with barcode scanners to record and transmit stock and utilisation details to a central inventory control system.

This is meant to ensure continued access to essential medication and to allow usage patterns to be easily monitored.

According to IBM, the system is so transparent that each district will be able to have a real time view of drug stock levels at the clinics and to better coordinate the transfer of supplies from one facility to another.   

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 “The Zambian pilot is designed to be sustainable and locally owned. Our unique analytics technology can help save lives by ensuring access to safe and effective medicines where they are needed most,” said Peter Ward, a solutions manager at IBM.

The 12-month pilot project is set to begin in May.