Special delivery: 56 million condoms
It’s always great to hear what our Member Associations are up to in the field and to learn about new activities and programs – peer education, mobile health units and kiosks, advocacy and the promotion of comprehensive sex education, to name a few. But it’s not very often that one learns about the process and logistics involved behind these programs. After all, condoms don’t grow on trees, so how do our MAs get the supplies they need to run effective programs?
Here at IPPF/WHR Maria Cristina Ramirez, Senior Program Advisor for Logistics, and Linda Rodriguez, Bilingual Administrative Assistant, coordinate the procurement of contraceptives to many of the Member Associations in the Western Hemisphere Region. In 2010, they were behind the scenes ensuring that over 56 million condoms and almost 4.3 million oral contraceptives were delivered to the region.
Maria Cristina explains, "The supply chain of contraceptives starts with the request for contraceptives by our member affiliates. Then we analyze their request, and based on their goals and the current level of stocks, we approve or adjust the request accordingly. Next, a detailed request of contraceptives and medical supplies is sent to ICON, the subsidiary company of IPPF Central Office, as the purchase of contraceptives is centralized in order to reduce costs. After this process is completed we, at WHR, coordinate with the person in charge of our Region at ICON the delivery of the respective documentation to each country. We later follow-up on information about the shipment such as the estimated delivery time, name of the transportation company and estimated arrival time. Once we have this information, we pass it to the MAs in order for them to be ready to receive the shipments.”
Having worked with IPPF/WHR since 1993, Maria Cristina has played a key role in ensuring an efficient logistics system, sufficient training and support to the Member Associations. In collaboration with the Information Systems department at the Regional and Central levels, the creation of our current system has been one of her greatest accomplishments. The numbers support that -- stock outs of contraceptives have been reduced by more than 90% from when she started.
In addition to leading the logistics team, Maria Cristina represents IPPF Western Hemisphere Regional Office on the Latin America and Caribbean Forum of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition. The Coalition is composed of representatives from the world’s main providers of contraceptives that include USAID, UNFPA, IPPF, manufacturers and government representatives. The group works together to guarantee the supply of contraceptives worldwide to those who need them. “My main role in this group is to ensure that NGOs working in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) are represented and have a voice. It’s important that others understand the important role of NGOs in SRH.” Maria Cristina explained that through their Community Based Distribution programs the MAs reach areas where no other organizations, not even the Ministry of Health, are providing services and distributing contraceptives. “If our MAs or other NGOs don’t have products, they cannot have programs that often serve the most marginalized populations.”