Emergency Orders of FP/RH Supplies Will Protect Women and Families in Yemen

Related Supply Chain Topics
Related Global Health Areas
May 13, 2019
Lead Paragraph/Summary

In early 2015, Yemen’s escalating civil war reached a boiling point, and has since evolved into a devastating humanitarian crisis. An estimated 22.2 million people – more than three quarters of the population – need humanitarian assistance. More than five million are women of reproductive age, and an estimated 500,000 are pregnant women. Even before the crisis, women faced greater risk of dying due to pregnancy complications or during childbirth, with high fertility rates and a one in sixty chance of maternal mortality.  Access to voluntary family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) products are essential for safe motherhood, families and prosperous communities. 

In November 2018, the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project successfully delivered the first shipment of a $1.5M emergency order of FP/RH commodities to Yemen’s major cargo seaport of Aden, located in the country’s southern region. Altogether, the supplies will provide nearly 400,000 couple years protection*  for women and families who need them.

Map of Yemen
With offices in 34 countries, GHSC-PSM procures and delivers health commodities and provides technical assistance to strengthen national supply chain systems. The project supports a further 27 countries, including Yemen, without having a physical presence in the country. Under these circumstances, a multi-stakeholder approach and a reliable on-the-ground partner with knowledge of the local context are crucial to ensuring supplies reach all beneficiaries, especially those in hard to reach remote areas. In Yemen, that partner is Save the Children. Save the Children is the only international non-governmental organization currently addressing the estimated 31.7 percent unmet need for family planning in Yemen. Once GHSC-PSM delivers to port, Save the Children arranges for transportation of the health supplies to warehouses, and from there, to targeted health facilities, including hospitals in the conflict-affected north, often at great personal risk to their staff. 
A Cautious Approach in a Turbulent Environment

Getting commodities into a country without a physical presence is challenging under normal circumstances, and in an active war zone, laden with undefined risks. GHSC-PSM’s adaptable approach, unparalleled supply chain logistics expertise, and access to a wealth of global supply chain data resulted in successful and timely deliveries. The project identified stock that was prepositioned in its Belgium and Dubai-based regional distribution centers that could be sent to Yemen, bypassing the three to six-month timeframe normally required for production, quality inspection and shipping. Other commodities, such as consumable kits for implants, were delivered directly from the supplier due to the large size of the cargo. GHSC-PSM was able to make quick, informed decisions based on real-time data to:

  • Determine, in consultation with USAID and Save the Children, which FP/RH commodities were needed in Yemen
  • Examine the pipeline of global FP/RH orders to see where products could be prioritized without negatively impacting the stock level of another country 
  • Earmark commodities for Yemen that were ready and waiting for the go-ahead to ship  
  • Map port entry clearance and customs procedures with Save the Children, exchanging knowledge on documentation and requirements and avoiding major delays  
  • Conduct freight procurement from a fleet of five global freight forwarders, set up communication processes with the two selected and best equipped third-party logistics (3PL)
  • Prepare for additional maritime security threats, mandatory inspections and a changing political landscape that come with delivering to an unstable environment

In an active war zone, ports of entry can be crowded with competing aid deliveries, such as food supplies, that may need to be prioritized. The risk of demurrage, a penalty fee charged when a cargo ship sits in port, is high in these situations and costs can skyrocket. Working with a fixed budget and timeline, this required careful and conservative budgeting and planning, and constant communication with Save the Children, ultimately leading to an on-time and under-budget delivery The first shipment of consumable kits for implants delivered in November 2018. Subsequent shipments included male and female condoms, oral contraceptive pills, implants, emergency contraceptive pills, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). These commodities were requested by Save the Children following consultations with local health officials and stakeholders to ensure a steady supply of voluntary FP/RH commodities for women and families who count on them. The ultimate goal is improved reproductive health outcomes for women and their communities in Yemen, starting with reliable supply.


*Couple years protection refers to the estimated protection provided by family planning services during a one-year period, based upon the volume of all contraceptives distributed during that period.