Three million protective suits were used in the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa © PA Images
Three million protective suits were used in the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa © PA Images

UN bolsters supply chains to prepare for next pandemic

posted by Francis Churchill
14 March 2017

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) wants to improve its response to disease outbreaks by increasing visibility in supply chains.

It is developing an IT platform to visualise logistic networks and track critical items including protective gear and medical equipment in countries facing outbreaks.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which killed more than 10,000 people, required the use of 3m protective suits and manufacturers had to triple production to meet demand. 

The international community’s reaction to the 2014 outbreak was hindered by poor visibility of the supply of – and demand for – resources, WFP said.

A collaboration with Japanese firm NEC Corporation, the system “will promote timeliness and cost efficiency” by consolidating information on supplies and logistics and by analysing supply chain inefficiencies, WFP said.

The platform will be the first to provide end-to-end visibility of supply chains for fighting pandemics, it added.

It was also constrained by warehousing and distribution capacity, access problems caused by border closures, and a lack of public-private sector coordination that lead to efforts being duplicated.

Insufficient capacity “leads to critical delays, costs lives and wastes precious resources”, WFP said.

The new system provides complete visibility across the Global Pandemic Supply Chain Network, a collaboration of public and private organisations established after the 2014 outbreak, and will help to “ensure quick and appropriate delivery of supplies to people in need”, WFP said.

The Japanese government has announced $1m towards the development of the platform. 

“It is widely recognised that the global health architecture could be reinforced with [an] improved supply chain platform to enable better preparation and faster response time for pandemics,” said Hideaki Chotoku, director of humanitarian assistance and emergency relief at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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