|© UNICEF/ HQ97-1086/Giacomo Pirozzi|
|ERITREA: In 1997 in Eritrea, two women holding sick babies watch as a woman health worker demonstrates how to prepare a solution of oral rehydration salts (ORS) at the UNICEF-assisted Melane Hiwet Hospital in Asmara, the capital.|
COPENHAGEN, 26 April 2005 - In the past two years, the value of Procurement Services orders in Eritrea has increased from $2,000 to $1.2 million, with two positive consequences. First, this notable achievement has smoothed the procurement and distribution of essential medicines within the country. Second, it complements UNICEF’s support for child survival interventions. It has been possible because of the strong collaboration between the UNICEF office in Asmara, Eritrea and UNICEF Supply Division.
UNICEF is a world leader in the procurement of supplies for children. The central objective of UNICEF Procurement Services is to assist development partners in the procurement of quality, value-for-money supplies from reliable manufacturers. In this way, partners can use and learn from UNICEF’s expertise in their own efforts to help children. UNICEF Procurement Services is undertaken by the local UNICEF office and UNICEF Supply Division, based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
‘Since Procurement Services activities stepped up in Eritrea, UNICEF has been able to extend its reach, particularly for Rural Health Posts and Regional Hospitals. This has helped the Ministry of Health to ensure the continuous supply of medicines to children and their communities in dispersed, rural communities.’
Christian Balslev-Olesen, Representative, UNICEF Asmara
The procurement and distribution of pharmaceuticals for the Eritrean Government is the responsibility of Pharmecor. This professional organization is well versed in international pharmaceutical procurement. However, on hearing of UNICEF Procurement Services in March 2003, the Director recognized that procuring through UNICEF would allow Pharmecor to take advantage of UNICEF’s professional ability to procure and deliver promptly essential medicines for the country’s National Health Programme. It would also harness UNICEF’s expertise and build Government capacity in the storage of medicines, through collaboration with UNICEF’s Health and Nutrition Sector.
The procurement activities have indeed developed the relationship between the Government and country office, not only by increasing the breadth of cooperation, but also by improving the operational dynamic.
UNICEF Asmara staff have recognized that in a competitive environment, keeping the customer satisfied and resolving issues promptly and effectively are paramount.
Carl Howorth, Supply Officer, UNICEF Asmara
Technical staff at Supply Division reviewed the specifications for the items, which were then procured and shipped using UNICEF’s stringent procurement process.
This professional attitude has substantially contributed to a continuous supply of medicines from the Ministry of Health throughout the country, of particular benefit to those living in hard-to-reach rural areas.
Expanding the partnership
Supply Division has delivered all the essential medicines and medical supplies including sutures, microscope slides, oral rehydration salts, penicillin, antibacterials, and paracetamol, ordered by Pharmecor through UNICEF. The success of the collaboration has not only raised the profile of Procurement Services within Eritrea, but has also led to current discussions on expanding the partnership in the medical arena.
Using UNICEF Procurement Services has become increasingly attractive to governments who have access to new resources through various global funds and mechanisms.
Background on Procurement Services and pharmaceuticals
In 2004, the value of Procurement Services orders totalled $235 million, including $21 million for pharmaceuticals. In addition to procuring medicines, Supply Division can provide partners with guidance on current best practices, and technical assistance in analysing the supply environment. Procurement requests are routinely checked for conformance with WHO-recommended programme guidelines, and where necessary advice is provided. Information on internationally pre-qualified suppliers and products is available. Supply Division offers either full or partial procurement of essential medicines for specific activities, with or without technical and logistics support.
In the past four years, the total value of all UNICEF Procurement Services orders has increased by well over 300 per cent. Commodities are now shipped to 90 countries around the world. UNICEF’s values of integrity, transparency, reliability and operational ethics are in strong demand.
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Background on Eritrea
A large section of the population of Eritrea lives in difficult conditions, compounded by the country’s propensity for severe cyclic droughts that compromise food security. UNICEF-supported programmes in this predominantly rural country cover the full gamut of supply services for women and children – primary health care, nutrition, safe water supply, sanitation and basic education. Since independence in 1991, health services have gradually extended to cover 70 per cent of the population currently, a dramatic improvement on the pre-independence figure of 10 per cent. Work to improve coverage further is ongoing.