World Malaria Day is commemorated on April 25 every year, highlighting global efforts to build a world free from malaria – one of the greatest health threats facing children under five and pregnant women across Africa.
Project Last Mile, a unique partnership between The Coca-Cola Company and its Foundation, The Global Fund, USAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is working closely with the Mozambican Government to ensure life-saving medicines, like those used to treat and prevent malaria, are available in even the most remote and rural areas of Mozambique.
If you can get a Coca-Cola product almost anywhere in Africa, why not life-saving medicines?
Project Last Mile partners with national health systems across Africa to answer this question – using Coca-Cola’s business processes and expertise to help ensure life-saving medicines are available wherever and whenever they are needed.
In Mozambique, it can be a long journey from many families to the nearest health facility. These health facilities lie far off the beaten path and reaching them requires walking many kilometers down poorly maintained dirt roads and footpaths – often in extreme heat. When there are heavy rains (which are common in this country), roads and paths can flood – delaying medicine delivery after medicines have been dispatched from national warehouses. Sometimes, the only way to reach some remote regions is by using traditional forms of transport, like small fishing boats.
It is common for malaria patients to arrive at health facilities only to find their medicine has been delayed or the stocks depleted. Arriving only to find the medicine they need has not been delivered or has run out can mean entire productive days are wasted. Not to mention the dangerous health implications of issues, like malaria which can be lethal if left untreated.
To help enable Mozambique prevent these stock-outages, Project Last Mile was invited by The Global Fund and the Mozambican Ministry of Health in partnership with the Central de Medicamentos e Artigos Médicos (CMAM) to help advance Mozambique’s Strategic Plan for Pharmaceutical Logistics (PELF). PLM approached this challenge in exactly the same way that a Coca-Cola bottler would approach distributing hard to reach markets. The starting point is a structured approach to setting up an optimally designed distribution network including using outsourced distribution partners in an efficient manner and building capability in staff responsible for warehousing and logistics in the last mile. In the Mozambique context, the local bottler, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa possesses all these capabilities to consistently reach the ‘last mile’ and has generously shared these with CMAM through Project Last Mile.
Mapping Delivery Routes, Spreading Hope
It started with a pilot activity to map out Mozambique’s road infrastructure in select regions to design the best possible pharmaceutical distribution model for CMAM. It sounds simple, but it took over 650 hours of driving to accomplish. The Project Last Mile team covered over 23,000km and visited more than 300 health facilities in over 40 districts, spread across three provinces.
Throughout this entire process, data points were captured to track road quality, how fast vehicles could travel on the roads, and what potential weather hazards might be, among others. All this data was then put through similar delivery route mapping software that Coca-Cola uses to manage its product distribution.
These route optimization solutions are then implemented to ensure that the right types of life saving medicines and supplies arrive in the right quantities, at the right place and at the right time every month. Good information is key to effective distribution and this is how PLM is helping improve the availability of life-saving medicine across each province in Mozambique.
Project Last Mile and its partners are committed to improving the availability of life-saving medicines in Africa and inspiring other private sector companies to share their unique assets and strengths towards eradicating malaria on the continent. This innovative cross-sector partnership is bringing life-saving medicines to more people across Africa than ever before.
Find out more about Project Last Mile here and see a photo essay on Project Last Mile’s work to ensure medicine used to treat HIV and AIDS reach those at the last mile here.