Year in Review: Uganda Highlights Roadmap Accomplishments in Celebration of Health Supply Chain Week

September 13, 2023

Year in Review: Uganda Highlights Roadmap Accomplishments in Celebration of Health Supply Chain Week

The Government of Uganda (GOU) is bringing policymakers, health care professionals, civil society organizations, and implementing partners together for the third annual Health Supply Chain Week, running September 18 to 22. The weeklong event celebrates progress made toward achieving Uganda’s vision of a modern, country-led health supply chain. Through a series of learning conferences, media engagements, and presentations, Health Supply Chain Week promotes crucial conversations on the challenges that remain and galvanizes action to align ministries, departments, and agencies of government and all other stakeholders’ priorities and strategies.

Organized in partnership with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the USAID-funded Uganda Strengthening Supply Chain Systems (SSCS) Activity, this year’s efforts place a special focus on highlighting the 10-year National Health Supply Chain Roadmap and the accomplishments made in its first year of implementation. The roadmap plans to establish and maintain a reliable, donor-independent supply chain that can provide Ugandans with uninterrupted access to essential medicines and health supplies by promoting capacity strengthening among the government’s ministries, departments, and agencies and maximizing existing resources. The “one-government” approach, a key attribute to the roadmap’s success, has facilitated strong coordination and promoted accountability among stakeholders from inception to implementation and provides the basis for how Uganda now plans to achieve its supply chain goals.

This country-led effort builds on nearly two decades of partnership with the US Government to strengthen its pharmaceutical sector and has made important strides since its launch in January 2022. As government leaders and stakeholders come together for Health Supply Chain Week, we highlight three areas of progress to celebrate and learn from:

Digitalization takes shape

Supply chain digitalization, the theme of last year’s health supply chain week, remains a major priority in Uganda. For years, limited access to technology forced the country to rely heavily on paper-based systems, hindering efforts to track data and improve coordination between suppliers and health facilities. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated this issue and revealed how imperative a digital supply chain system is to withstand public health emergencies, natural disasters, and other humanitarian crises.

In the first year of the roadmap’s implementation, significant progress was made to improve access to technology and internet connectivity. With support from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and National Guidance, Uganda connected 84 health facilities to the national internet backbone as part of its commitment to connect 600 facilities over the next 5 years. To strengthen local capacity to meet these goals, the country hired 136 district information, communications, and technology officers. The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development also committed to providing electricity to 830 health facilities and 73 districts over the next 5 years, with 400 health facilities already in line for solar off-grid electrification.

Enhancing electricity supply and internet connectivity is the first step toward enabling the collection of real-time data that can be used to better track and manage health commodities. Building upon decades of partnership and investment, the online MOH national warehouse stock status dashboard, developed with technical assistance from MSH and support from USAID, today aggregates and analyses central-level stock status and provides real-time reports from the National Medical Stores and Joint Medical Stores for decision makers at the central level. This improved visibility will help prevent stock-outs of medicines, increase accountability and communication between systems, and, ultimately, ensure that facilities have the lifesaving medicines and supplies to meet patient needs.

Improving financing and resource allocation

A responsible and effective financial strategy is vital to maintaining a supply chain system independent of donor support. Beginning at inception, the government held stakeholder meetings to develop budgeting frameworks and determine expected outcomes, all while emphasizing the importance of the one-government approach. To further ensure that Uganda has the funds to meet roadmap priorities, the government allocated the equivalent of USD 130.1 million in fiscal year 2023-24 to procure essential medicines and health supplies and USD 13.3 million for antiretrovirals. This represents a 15% increase in GOU funding from FY 2022/23 to FY 2023/24. The government is also overseeing the local implementation of roadmap activities to ensure that ministries, departments, and agencies have the resources to achieve these commitments.

Digitalizing Uganda’s supply chain system will not only help improve access to medicines but also help the country save money. These innovations will allow the country to allocate funding and resources based on real-time data to better meet health facility needs and reduce potential waste. As a result of these improved efficiencies, the country anticipates saving millions of dollars over the 10-year roadmap implementation period.

Strengthening leadership and workforce management

Uganda’s vision cannot be attained without effective leadership and adequate staffing. Since 2022, the USAID SSCS Activity and other partners have trained over 600 leaders from 33 districts, cities, and municipalities and 17 hospitals in supply chain leadership, management, and governance. Leaders then took the knowledge and skills gained from these trainings to develop their own supply chain implementation plans. The USAID SSCS Activity and partners also held over 100 health supply chain leadership and coordination meetings in 77 districts and 27 hospitals. Equipped with the tools they need to build on this progress, over 800 leaders have mapped improvement strategies based on supply chain performance indicators.

Ensuring a strong health workforce is key to building a resilient supply chain and overall health system. In alignment with the roadmap, 2 critical supply chain positions have been added to each of the 136 districts’ health department staffing structures: district pharmacists and medical records officers. These staffing additions will help strengthen Uganda’s capacity to better manage commodities through a digital and integrated health supply chain that the USAID SSCS Activity is supporting the ministry to establish.

Looking ahead

One year after launching the roadmap, Uganda’s mission of creating a modern, donor-independent health supply chain is closer to becoming a reality. But this is only the beginning. As roadmap priorities continue to be implemented across Uganda, local leaders and stakeholders will continue working together to build on this progress and ensure that these outcomes can be sustained for years to come. This ongoing collaboration will help the country meet these 10-year commitments, and, in doing so, advance the overarching goal of improving health outcomes for all Ugandans.