How do you get contraceptive supplies where they're needed most?

a vehicle and team member in Sierra Leone
Our logistics team – ably assisted by our country programme and medical development teams – make sure our centres, outreach teams and social franchisees across the world are fully stocked with everything they need.

Most of our logistics team have worked in the field, so they know what works. They get tweezers made for our tubal ligation kits with a millimetre of extra bend in the tips because women told our clinicians it was more comfortable that way. They find suppliers who make tents with separate rooms, because tents with one big space inside don’t offer enough privacy to clients.

We don’t often talk about how we get all the resources we need to places, but the logistics team is the engine room of Marie Stopes International, so we thought it was time we highlighted how their actions impact our family planning services across the world.

But how can we explain the complex work they do? The best way is to talk you through just one set of goods they delivered.

The amount of resources our centres, outreach teams and social franchisees need to provide quality family planning services day in, day out is astonishing. And if supply is ever threatened by matters beyond our control – whether by red tape or natural disasters befalling production factories – the line of women with unmet contraceptive needs queuing up for our family planning services doesn’t get any smaller.

“Sometimes women are surprised this kind of thing exists,” said Aziza, an Afghan team member who provides advice to women about the range of contraception available then distributes the chosen family planning product door to door. “One woman was so happy to have the pills that she hugged me, ripped open the package and swallowed a pill immediately with a gulp of water,” Aziza recalled. The woman had given birth 17 times, with three dead and 14 living children. Had Aziza had no pills to hand out that day, there might have been more.

Delivering access through innovation and partnerships

We don’t work alone in ensuring our centres are fully stocked: that’s where our partners come in.

Faced with a stock crisis caused by political restrictions three years ago, UNFPA’s help proved vital. With our Ghanaian and Tanzanian centres among others due to run out of contraceptive supplies in just weeks – and knowing that in many of the countries affected we provide a quarter of the contraception – they gave us an astonishing 45,000 IUDs, 103,000 implants, 700,000 injectable contraceptives and 3.3 million packets of the combined pill, all of which our logistics team delivered to underserved populations around the world.

Sometimes the contraceptives got held up along the way (one batch of contraceptive pills was delayed for almost four months waiting for a hard to obtain certificate, a final counter-signature, one last inspection) but the logistics team’s perseverance and expertise got them through customs and delivered them safely to the people who needed them in the end. We continue to deliver UNFPA-donated commodities to this day, along with supplies that we receive from our other valued partners.

Making a sustainable impact around the world

To list some of those who have benefitted from UNFPA’s generosity is to list many of the world’s most underserved countries: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe. In all these countries the unmet need for contraception is high and we work hard to keep up with demand in order to limit the number of unplanned pregnancies and women forced to resort to unsafe abortion.

UNFPA help us to serve those in most need. Their support so far has resulted in a staggering 3.2 million CYPs, which means 943,840 unplanned pregnancies will be averted, which in turn means 127,543 unsafe abortions will not occur, which finally and most importantly means 2,759 maternal deaths will be prevented.

So almost three thousand lives saved, almost three thousand holes in families and communities avoided. Together UNFPA and Marie Stopes International are having a real impact on the reproductive health of women in some of the world’s most underserved communities. We look forward to this continuing.

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