Technical areas: emergency response, humanitarian, procurement, rsimon

By Rachel Simon on July 25th, 2022

Moderated by the IAPHL Health Commodity Logistics sub-community and Building Capacity to Improve Health Commodity Management in Humanitarian and Disaster Settings Project, this moderated discussion brought together experts from UNFPA, JSI, and PFSCM.

A major consideration when opting for international procurement is lead time. Procurements can be delayed for many reasons, including legal and policy restrictions, not only in the origin and final destination countries
but also in other countries involved in the global supply chain. Effective procurement eventually determines how fast and effectively you can deliver health products to the last mile, especially during a humanitarian response.

What types of procurement bottlenecks impact your efficiency and lead times to deliver life-saving health commodities in the middle of a crisis?

One member from Afghanistan noted the following bottlenecks:

  • Weak procurement team and/or lack of Human Resources in the procurement team
  • Unnecessary paperwork
  • Lack or unavailability of qualified vendors or companies
  • Shortages of time and short project duration

Another member from Kenya noted the need for management that can support quick decision making and acting. Health commodities also require a supportive technical team that is less bureaucratic and government policies with some level of flexibility in ensuring quick action and decision-making.

Finally, a member from the DRC explained that there are limited local pharmaceutical suppliers approved by donors, which can also create bottlenecks.

Responding to these identified bottlenecks, the panel of experts provided a few solutions:

  1. While many procurement systems have implemented good procurement practices, the processes are often slow and cumbersome. Breeding champions that are able to identify and implement process improvements can contribute to the elimination of procurement bottlenecks.
  2. It is important to develop continuity of operations plans for our procurement processes as part of our disaster
    preparedness efforts. Also, when we streamline and harmonize our own systems and regulations internally in our own organizations in a way that satisfies all donor requirements, we can save ourselves the trouble of changing our standards depending on the donor.
  3. Implementing a vendor prequalification program can expand the supplier base of local and international wholesalers, help vendors identify opportunities for improvement, minimize the challenges of global procurement, educate vendors about the global standards for procurement, and so much more!
  4. As with other procurement constraints, it is important to proactively identify bottlenecks during project design and while developing contingency and supply plans. Organizations’ donor compliance departments are good resources and should be involved.

During the discussion, many participants also used the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of procurement in an emergency. Many members shared their experiences relating to COVID and how supply chains should adapt to handle emergencies, including a pandemic, in the future. In response to the rapid procurement of respirators at the beginning of the pandemic, one member said:

So part of the solution for novel diseases will need to be to recognize that the science will also evolve and we need to be cautious of supply chains using all of the scarce resources in over-procuring the first solution.

Check out the IAPHL Listserv to read the full discussion!

Achieving Shorter Procurement Lead Times during Emergencies