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MOH, UNICEF to pilot supply of nutrition commodities directly to public health facilities

A pilot phase to integrate nutrition supplies into the national Essential Medicines & Health Supplies system to improve the availability of nutrition supplies and reduce stock outs at health facilities in West Nile Region in 7 districts has been launched.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Health and United Nations Children’s Fund – UNICEF have launched the pilot phase of the integration of nutrition commodities in the national supply chain system.

It was revealed during the launch on October 16th at the National Medical Stories -NMS warehouse  in Katabi that the system will be managed by NMS.

The commodities aim at managing moderate and severe malnutrition. They include therapeutic foods rich in zinc, iron, vitamin A among others.

At the launch, Dr. Viorica Berdaga, Chief Child Survival and Development at UNICEF, handed over about 5,000 cartons of different nutrition commodities which were worth over Shillings 14.8 billion to NMS through the health ministry.

She says NMS will distribute the supplies between October 2020 and March 2021 in 7 districts in the West Nile region. These include; Arua, Zombo, Yumbe, Adjumani, Koboko, Moyo, Onobgi and Madi-Okollo districts.

The supplies will be delivered directly to Arua Regional Referral Hospital, five hospitals in Kuluva, Yumbe, Oriajini, Koboko and Moyo. Also nine health centre IVs including Mungula, Adumi, River Oli and others will get supplies as well as other health centre IIIs and IIs that provide nutrition services within the 7 selected districts.

Berdaga explained that UNICEF has been distributing nutrition supplies at the district level and it is the office of the district health officer that distributes the supplies to the hospitals and health centres.

However, the UN agency would like to change the supply system by using the model of NMS that distributes medical supplies directly to the public health facilities. As a result, the agency will procure and transfer the supplies to NMS and then the supplies will be taken to the respective facilities.

She noted that the integration is in line with the National Medicines Policy, 2015 where the health ministry wants to integrate all parallel health supply chains into the NMS supply chain system. The integration will also improve management and ownership of nutrition supplies as part of the Essential Medicines and Health Supplies List for Uganda. Iron and Vitamin A are the only nutrition supplies currently on the list.

She also noted that the process began a decade ago resulting in the 2017 supply chain assessment of nutrition commodities carried out by the health ministry. The Nutrition Supply Integration Taskforce was thereafter formed and it agreed in June this year that the pilot study should be done in West Nile and not Karamoja due to availability of donor funding.

The pilot phase will thereby improve the availability of nutrition supplies and reduce stock outs at health facilities by integrating nutrition supplies into the NMS supply chain system and also assess if any special consideration is required for the national rollout of nutrition supply chain integration.

Berdaga also justified the pilot study because under nutrition, it is a big public health issue in the country.

She noted that close to 1.8 million Ugandans are stunted and about 200,000 children are malnourished, particularly in regions such as Karamoja and West Nile where there are emergencies, chronic or cyclic droughts.

As a result, they need to access nutrition supplies. Other groups that benefit from the supplies are  people living with HIV/AIDs, those battling with tuberculosis and pregnant mothers among others.

Meanwhile, Dr. Diana Atwine the Permanent Secretary ministry of health says integrating the commodities into the national supply system will ensure the ministry lobbies government to fund nutrition services.

She adds that nutrition is also key in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).

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