Preventing stock-outs: SMS for Life

2011
Mr Winna Shango, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Tanzania

SMS for Life uses widely available SMS technology to record antimalarial stock levels at the point-of-care. Information is collated in a central database and used to display countrywide stock availability by district and health facility. Facilities at risk of stock-out can then be replenished with the needed supplies.

1. What has been the impact of SMS for Life in Tanzania?

We now have a completely new perspective; we have a clearer picture of stock status in all facilities across the country on a weekly basis. With this information we are better able to manage the supply of commodities. Moreover, the weekly reporting is helping to build a database of information that can be used to forecast future needs and therefore improve overall supply chain management. The programme has also helped to motivate health-care workers to continue reporting, as they see their actions result in stock being replenished.

2. What are the next steps for SMS for Life in Tanzania?

We would like to include the reporting of stock levels for more life-saving medicines and other medical commodities. These collated data could be made available to all the programme officers in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare working on other diseases, to improve the supply of medicines across the board.

3. In addition to financial support, what have been the benefits of working with MMV?

MMV provided a great deal of support with communication on a number of levels. They helped to coordinate with commodity providers; it helped that MMV knew which providers could offer the best deal and also that they could provide neutral advice, as MMV doesn’t have a financial incentive.

They shared experiences with the programme in other countries such as Kenya. Also, they helped disseminate information to the scientific community at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual conference. This enabled the programme implementers to have the opportunity to discuss and share ideas with other experts in the area.

Mr Winna Shango is the Acting Chief Pharmacist at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Tanzania.