While some 50% of people around the world lack sufficient access to medicines, it’s possible to buy a bottle of coke even in the most remote locations. The Last Mile project uses the distribution mechanisms of Coca-Cola to deliver pharmaceuticals to people in remote areas in Tanzania, and since 2010 has increased the availability of life-saving medicines by up to 30% in some regions. The project has expanded to countries across the African continent.
Results & Impact
Medicines that had previously been been delivered only to 130 district-level warehouses were shipped to 5,500 remote rural communities in Tanzania. In some areas, the availability of life-saving medicines has increased by 30%
Yale Global Health Initiative, Government of Tanzania, Coca-Cola, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Coca-Cola arranged for medicines to be carried by delivery companies that were already going to remote areas. The idea for the project was devised by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which consulted with Coca-Cola over how best to improve the medical supply routes. The partnership worked with the Global Fund to identify a champion within the Tanzanian government's Medical Stores Department, which used Coca-Cola's supply routes and other resources, such as staff training facilities, to improve the efficiency and reach of delivery for medicines
Cost & Value
The Global Fund and USAID contributed $23.5 million to the project for three years. USAID has announced it is contributing $21 million for the expansion of the project to other African countries
The Last Mile Project targets, or plans to target, at least ten countries on the African continent including Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa
Tanzania has brought life-saving drugs to thousands of remote communities using the distribution systems of soft drinks giant Coca-Cola.
Conceived in 2009 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Last Mile Project has extended the medical supply chain to 5,500 villages, improving access to healthcare for rural Tanzanians. Its success has meant it’s now expanded to other countries on the African continent including Nigeria, Mozambique and Nigeria.
The Last Mile refers to the final leg of the global health supply chain — the distance between important medications and the people that need them. Bridging this gap is a huge challenge for governments in the developing world, where poor transport infrastructure, inadequate communications systems or a lack of large-scale warehousing and skilled logistics personnel prohibit the efficient distribution of drugs.
In Tanzania, these problems were lethal. Before the project was launched, the government’s Medical Stores Department (MSD) was delivering supplies to 130 medical supply centres at district level, and did not facilitate distribution beyond that point. As a result, some 30% to 40% of orders from health centres in Tanzania ended up unfilled.
One way of addressing the problem was sending generic kits stocked with common drugs, but this was inefficient and sometimes dangerous: anti-malaria medication, for example, was sent to areas where malaria wasn’t present, or individuals with less common illnesses were unable to access the drugs they needed.
By leveraging the expertise of Coca-Cola, however, the Tanzanian government has improved how drugs are supplied. Interventions included training for MSD staff members, through courses from the Accenture Supply Chain Academy, and Coca-Cola has supported and facilitated the outsourcing of delivery to third parties that were already shipping goods to remote areas. Drugs now reach rural areas through more unconventional means of transportation — even delivering medicines by boat in the rainy season.
The spark for the partnership came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which approached Coca-Cola in 2009 after observing that many rural communities were inaccessible by medical supply chains — but that a bottle of coke could be bought anywhere in the world.
After researching potential partnership models with the Global Fund, the group identified a champion for the project in the Director General of the MSD. At the time, the MSD was mandated to begin delivering directly to health facilities, dramatically expanding its reach, and with proactive facilitators in government the private sector and philanthropies, the project had plenty of capacity to establish effective systems.
Although the Tanzania project has now been completed, the successes of the project are being replicated, with the expertise of Coca-Cola being applied to the particular needs of the national supply chain in new locations. In South Africa, for example, the project focussed on developing Pick Up Points in stores where people could easily and reliably pick up medication orders. In Mozambique, it outsourced delivery of drugs to third party organisations already working to supply remote areas with goods.
(Photo Credit: Project Last Mile)