Basic Technology Helps End Contraceptive Stockouts in Senegal

August 14, 2012 • Family Planning, Senegal, News

The following story was found on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website blog, called Impatient Optimists. It tells the story of simple, yet apparently quite effective actions — based on basic information technologies — that are being undertaken in Senegal to reduce tragic contraceptive supply deficiencies known as “stockouts”.

Senegal Pushes Bold Action on Contraception

Perri Sutton

August 08, 2012

Imagine you are a working mother of two, and though you would like to have a third child, you have decided for health, professional and financial reasons that you want to wait two or three years before your next pregnancy. You have tried different contraceptive methods in the past, and have found the vaginal ring to be the only one that works well with your body chemistry and lifestyle. You obtained a prescription and went to the pharmacy to pick up a three month supply.

Relatively simple, right?

Now imagine that every pharmacy in your state is stocked-out of vaginal rings. Furthermore, there is a nation-wide shortage and it could be several months before they become available. You reluctantly return to your health provider for a prescription for the pill, and go back to your local pharmacy to pick it up. Lo and behold they are also stocked-out of contraceptive pills, and it turns out there’s a nation-wide stock-out! The pharmacist shrugs, points you toward their condom selection and offers to unlock the case for you.

While this scenario may sound outrageous to a woman living in the United States, it is a reality that women in poor countries face time and time again. The most effective and woman-preferred methods of contraception are persistently stocked-out at clinics, hospitals and pharmacies.

Let’s take Senegal for example.

Last year we learned that on average among urban public health centers and hospitals (where the vast majority of women go for family planning), contraceptive implants were stocked out 83 percent of the year, and injectable contraceptives were stocked out 42 percent of the year. These are the two methods of contraception that women there request the most. Would you find it unacceptable if your first two preferences for contraceptive methods were unavailable? I would.

Fortunately, the Minister of Health, Dr. Awa Marie Coll-Seck, is making it a priority to fix the problems that result in stock-outs and ensure that women have access to the full range of contraceptive options. Dr. Coll-Seck stood before a global audience on July 11th at the London Summit on Family Planning and announced that she will increase the national budget for contraceptives by 200 percent and double the budget for family planning services. Furthermore, she is working with local leadership on a refined national action plan for family planning, and one of the pillars of her plan is the reform of Senegal’s contraceptive supply chain to eliminate stock-outs.

Sounds ambitious, but how will it be done? The Minister has a well-defined strategy based on early success.

Pilot tests of a model for contraceptive distribution, known locally as “pousse pousse” or informed push, have provided the Minister with all the evidence she needs to eliminate stock-outs. The model is inspired by the commercial sector, and looks much like a typical system used to stock candy and chips in vending machines.

To read the full entry, please click here:

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