Unclogging Guinea’s Public Health Supply Chain

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Nearly 150 Tons of Healthcare Waste Is Collected and Prepared for Export and Destruction
May 31, 2018
Lead Paragraph/Summary

Pharmaceutical and other health commodities become waste when they’re expired, damaged, or otherwise unable to be used.  An excess of donations from the 2014 Ebola outbreak contributed to an existing buildup of unusable health commodities across Guinea, taking up larger and larger volumes of space in warehouses and storerooms and impeding the smooth operation of the public health supply chain. Guinea’s lack of incinerators appropriate for the disposal of pharmaceuticals and other medical waste meant that most waste could not be disposed of locally.


Aiming to unclog its health supply chain, the Ministry of Health requested support from USAID, through the Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project, to support the identification, collection, transport, and storage of the waste until it can be exported for disposal under internationally recognized procedures.

Prepared with safety training, process maps, collection procedures, protective equipment, and vehicles, 92 health workers and 42 handlers conducted a physical inventory of waste at more than 500 medical stores, hospitals, clinics, and other health facilities. They then collected and routed the waste to storage sites in each region for consolidation and transport to a central site in Conakry, the nation’s capital.  Waste collected for disposal included expired or otherwise unusable products like antimalarial medicines; contraceptives used in reproductive health programs; various commodities for support of maternal, newborn, and child health; and personal protective gear used during the Ebola outbreak.

Different types of waste require different disposal methods. Under the supervision of the General Inspectorate of Health and the National Pharmacy and Drug Directorate, GHSC-PSM provided a method for sorting and packaging waste by categories according to disposal methods, including pharmaceutical waste, medical waste, chemicals, solids, and liquids.

All told, nearly 150 tons of medical and pharmaceutical waste — about the same weight as 90 African hippos — was collected, sorted, weighed, and repackaged in appropriate packaging and containers. The National Environmental Directorate next processed and approved a dossier to export the waste for incineration and disposal abroad.

Stronger Together

The disposal of 150 tons of waste required hundreds of health workers and the support of many dedicated partners, including:

  • General Inspectorate of Health
  • Health Directorate of the City of Conakry
  • Ministry of Environment, Water, and Forests
  • Ministry of Health
  • National Environmental Directorate
  • National Pharmacy and Drug Directorate
  • Prefectural Health Directorates
  • Regional Health Directorates
Seventeen secure containers store 150 tons of segregated waste ready for export and destruction.
Seventeen secure containers store 150 tons of segregated waste ready for export and destruction.
Seventeen secure containers store 150 tons of segregated waste ready for export and destruction. Photo credit: GHSC-PSM
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Removal of the waste from health facilities has freed up valuable storage space, improving the efficiency of operations to manage medicines and other health supplies needed by laboratories, health facilities, and ultimately patients.

This short-term fix is part of a long-term plan in which GHSC-PSM will help strengthen Guinea’s overall public heath supply chain. Key aims of this support are to:

  • Improve forecasting and supply planning of health commodities
  • Enhance warehousing and inventory management
  • Strengthen distribution to health facilities in the "last kilometer"
  • Promote the use of logistics date and decision-making through an electronic logistics management system
  • Facilitate redistribution of commodities among health facilities to ensure availability of medicines and other commodities