As the frontline health worker at Isiolo County Referral Hospital, Denis Mutirithia has a vital role to play in saving lives – and a new digital tool to help him do so. The pharmaceutical technologist is responsible for predicting and preventing shortages and stockouts of essential medical supplies, including contraceptives.
If he receives supplies from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) on time, patients in the hospital will have access to the medicines they need, when they need them. But delayed supplies can trigger a litany of crises, ranging from illness to unwanted pregnancies and increased risk of maternal and newborn deaths.
As the COVID-19 pandemic devastated health systems and closed health facilities, family planning and contraceptives were among the most disrupted services. The costs are borne by the the most vulnerable women and girls, with peaks of unintended teenage pregnancies reported in parts of Kenya.
“When a woman’s reproductive health is blocked, her life is also blocked,” said editor Ochieng, founder of a women’s shelter and a legal aid organization in Kibera, a sprawling slum in Nairobi. “Access to contraceptives is one of the most crucial empowerment tools that the women of Kibera need to improve their lives, but often it is not available.
Innovations that empower women
Now, a new mobile phone app is set to be a game-changer for healthcare workers like Mr. Mutirithia. The electronic proof of delivery, or e-POD app, tracks supplies to primary health facilities with the push of a button and was developed to improve essential deliveries across Kenya.
“By checking the app on my phone, I can tell when a particular shipment of family planning commodities is expected to arrive. This helps us advise clients accordingly, so that they get the method of their choice on their next appointment, ”he says.
The e-POD app received the award for Best Innovative Health Supply Chain Solution at the 2021 Global Health Supply Chain Summit in December 2021. So far, it has been deployed in ten counties nationwide and is expected to be available in all 47 counties by mid-2022.
The mobile application was developed as part of the Last Mile Kenya Program, implemented through a partnership between KEMSA and Coca-Cola Beverage Africa, with support from UNFPA. It uses GPS to make sure deliveries get where and when they’re supposed to arrive, and healthcare facilities can easily tell if they’ve received the correct specifications. The app also monitors order turnaround times to avoid delays that could lead to depletion of vital supplies.
Edward Njoroge, Interim Managing Director of KEMSA, said: “With this new system, we will be able to ensure deliveries to the right health facilities, in the right quantities and at the right time.
e-POD is one of two recent family planning tracking applications developed with support from UNFPA. The second is Qualipharm, created with the local public health organization HealthStrat, to track consumption of family planning products at the county, sub-county and facility levels. These are, according to Charity Koronya of UNFPA, “a game changer, not only for health workers but also for citizens who depend on public health facilities for access to life-saving commodities.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected women’s access to family planning information and services around the world, some 12 million women have experienced disruptions in family planning services since their inception, especially in low-income countries and marginalized communities.
UNFPA works with local and international partner organizations across Kenya to strengthen efforts to ensure universal access and rights to sexual and reproductive health care, reaching more than 900,000 people with family planning services in 2020.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).