Across Africa, donors and governments have made great strides in getting life-saving medicines into countries. However, medical supplies don’t always reach the people who need them and health services are not always accessed as they should be.
This means that people continue to die as a result of lack of infrastructure even though the much-needed medicines or health services are available.
In examining access to health care in Africa, Project Last Mile’s donor partners, the Global Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, asked the key question, “If you can find a Coca-Cola product almost anywhere in Africa, why not life-saving medicines?” And Coca-Cola has responded by freely sharing its business models over the last eight years.
And so Project Last Mile was born.
Project Last Mile is a unique global partnership between the Coca-Cola Company, the Coca-Cola Foundation, USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
The project leverages private sector solutions from Coca-Cola Africa’s network to support Ministries of Health by improving the availability of life-saving medicines and medical supplies wherever and whenever they are needed.
Fighting Malaria in Mozambique
Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 93% of malaria-related deaths in the world. It’s also one of the greatest health threats facing pregnant women and children under five years across Africa. Project Last Mile works with the Mozambican government to ensure life-saving medicines used to treat and prevent malaria and other treatable and preventable diseases are available around the country.
More than 70% of the population in Mozambique lives in rural and remote areas, and often cut off from essential public infrastructure and health services.
These health facilities lie far off the beaten path and reaching them requires walking many kilometers down poorly maintained dirt roads and footpaths — often in extreme heat.
When there are heavy rains, which are common in Mozambique, roads and paths can flood, delaying medicine delivery after medicines have been dispatched from national warehouses.
Sometimes, the only way to reach some remote regions is by using traditional forms of transport, like small fishing boats. Project Last Mile draws on the Coca-Cola Company’s proven track record in delivering products in this challenging country to improve delivery and increase availability of medicines for people in hard-to-reach areas.
Around 1,521 health facilities across the country will experience improved delivery of medicines due to the work of Project Last Mile.
Tackling one of South Africa’s biggest health challenges
Millions of people in South Africa require routine access to medicines for HIV and other chronic conditions, leading to congested health facilities, overburdened health staff, and challenges in the quality of care.
To address this, the South African National Department of Health (NDoH) launched the Central Chronic Medicines Dispensing and Distribution (CCMDD) programme to address challenges in HIV care and access to antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), and Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which has proved to be successful in lowering the risk of HIV infection.
The CCMDD programme expands access to medicines through the creation of convenient “Pick-Up Points” for people living with HIV and other chronic illnesses.
Promoting health care
Project Last Mile was invited by USAID to support the NDoH in South Africa in 2016 to plan and implement a roadmap to meet NDoH's patient enrollment target, increase the number of Pick-Up Points for medication and to support other logistics involved in expanding care.
While Project Last Mile was not the only contributor to the CCMDD programme, its contributions are instrumental to its success. This includes contributing private sector processes to design and operate efficient alternative Pick-up points.
To date, 2 million patients have enrolled in over 3,300 health facilities as a result of the project, while over 860 Pick-up Points have been set up. The number of patients has gone up from 400,000 in 2016.
The Coca-Cola company has been in Africa for 90 years and its beverages are sold in even the most remote parts of the continent.
Project Last Mile has also supported work in Tanzania, Nigeria, Swaziland, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and aims to support 10 countries by 2020.
Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding partner of Global Citizen.
Editor's note: This piece has been updated to include a disclosure that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding partner of Global Citizen. We regret the oversight.