‘Project Last Mile’ expands to Liberia and Swaziland, strengthening health systems across Africa

Coca-Cola and partners now working in seven African countries, improving availability and access to life-saving medicines and medical supplies

AAThe Coca-Cola Company and its Foundations, in partnership with The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced the latest expansion of “Project Last Mile” with innovative programs to strengthen local health systems in Liberia and Swaziland. Launched in 2010 to transform the delivery of medical supplies in Tanzania, Project Last Mile has since worked with Ministries of Health in Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria and South Africa to improve the availability of essential medicines.

Project Last Mile is a public-private partnership that applies Coca-Cola’s supply-chain management and marketing expertise to support African governments in reaching the ‘last mile’ to deliver life-saving medicines and supplies to the hardest-to-reach communities. The new program in Swaziland will leverage Coca-Cola’s marketing expertise to increase awareness and demand for critical HIV prevention and treatment services in a country that has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world. Project Last Mile is joining with the Swaziland Ministry of Health and development partners to end the AIDS epidemic by providing innovative approaches to reducing HIV transmission in the country.

“With our strong commitment to reducing the HIV/AIDS burden in Swaziland, we are very pleased to be able to partner with Project Last Mile and tap into Coca-Cola’s vast experience to find ways to implement innovative marketing approaches to increase demand for HIV prevention services and treatment,” said Ms. Rejoice Nkambule, Deputy Director, Public Health, Ministry of Health of Swaziland.

Following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, which dramatically strained health systems, Project Last Mile partners began working with the Liberian Ministry of Health to harness the experience of the local bottling partner, Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company Limited. The project in Liberia will apply Coca-Cola’s extensive route-to-market and logistics expertise to set-up a more efficient and sustainable distribution network for medicines and medical supplies. The first phase of the project began in May 2017 and is expected to run for one year.

“With its unique public-private partnership model, Project Last Mile develops simple answers to extremely complex problems, and supports African Ministries of Health in providing life-saving medicines to patients and communities who need it most,” said Dr. Susan Mboya, President, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation. “What started with a single vision and vast ambition is now making a difference to millions of people across Africa, and we are delighted that we can now apply Coca-Cola’s operational experience to strengthening health systems in Liberia and Swaziland. Project Last Mile shows that great things can be achieved when like-minded organizations come together with a common goal, and we look forward to further expanding the initiative to meet our goal of working in 10 African countries by 2020.”

“The last decade has seen tremendous progress in science and investments in global health, and we’re working to overcome the final hurdles to reach the millions of people in Africa who still lack access to critical medicines and medical supplies,” said Marijke Wijnroks, the Global Fund’s Interim Executive Director. “The Coca-Cola Company is a global expert in overcoming the same kind of supply chain challenges that we at the Global Fund face every day. Project Last Mile is critically important.”

Following an initial commitment by program partners, the initiative began in Tanzania in 2010 and has since transformed medicine distribution in the country, allowing the government agency Medical Stores Department to better forecast needs and reorganize and expand its distribution system, improving the availability of medicine by up to 30%. Prior to the training and reorganization there were 150 warehouse drop-off points, a number which has now expanded to more than 5,500 health facilities directly supplied by Medical Stores Department.

The program was expanded in 2014 with more than US$21 million investment from partners, as well as the official addition of USAID to the coalition. Three additional Project Last Mile programs began in Mozambique, South Africa and Nigeria during 2016. For example in Mozambique, Project Last Mile partners with the Central de Medicamentos e Artigos Médicos (CMAM) to improve delivery of medicines to health facilities in hard-to-reach areas, with pilot projects currently taking place in three provinces. This is in support of the Mozambique Government’s Strategic Plan for improving Pharmaceutical Logistics.

During the European Development Days, hosted in Brussels by the European Commission, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will expand on learnings from Project Last Mile in a discussion called “Harnessing the Power of the Private Sector to Achieve the Health SDG” at 09:00 on June 8th.

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