Supplies and Logistics

Essential medicines

UNICEF Image: medicines
© UNICEF/HQ05-1719/Niclas Ryberg
PAKISTAN: A man holds his two year old son Ifrat, and medicines to treat the child at a basic health unit. The medicines come from a UNICEF emergency health kit.

The purpose of UNICEF’s essential medicines programmes is to reduce morbidity and mortality from common illnesses by ensuring equal access to essential medicines and encouraging the rational use of medicines, whilst assuring their quality.

In 2010, UNICEF procured $203 million worth of pharmaceuticals. The products in highest demand, based on value, have been iron and folic acid tablets as well as injectable and oral anti-infectives. The procurement of essential medicines is an area of special concern because of the potential risks involved if medicines are unsafe or do not meet the required standards. Supply Division, which follows the World Health Organization (WHO) Model List of Essential Medicines, is a centre of expertise on the quality, manufacture, regulatory requirements and purchasing of essential medicines and provides technical assistance in their management, both within and outside UNICEF. The Copenhagen warehouse has a Good Distribution Practice licence to store and distribute pharmaceuticals.

Pharmaceutical procurement is particularly complex. The expanding use of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines is a concern in many countries, and UNICEF focuses on controlling the origin of the medicines it supplies and only allows country offices to purchase medicines through Supply Division. The Division has a quality assurance system for purchasing medicines, involving pre-qualification of suppliers who comply with the WHO Good Manufacturing Practice Guidelines (GMP). In addition, this stringent system assesses the documentation provided by suppliers, evaluates products and includes site visits to manufacturers.

Supply Division is also an active member of the Inter-Agency Pharmaceutical Co-ordination Group (IPC), which was established in 1996 by UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank and later joined by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Through the IPC, each agency’s pharmaceutical advisers meet regularly to review common policies and practices, and to co-ordinate pharmaceutical policies underlying technical advice to partner countries. There is agreement among the partners that the pre-qualification of pharmaceutical manufacturers is a pre-requisite for ensuring product quality.








Latest - Priority medicines for mothers and children 2011

Arising from the 'Priority Essential Medicines for Child Survival' meeting, hosted by UNICEF Supply Division in September 2010, WHO has published the first ever list of priority medicines for maternal and child health. Read more.  Full details of September meeting here.
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