Across Africa, governments and donors are investing billions of dollars to strengthen health systems and make affordable medicines available. However, government supply chains often struggle to get medicines and supplies to the health facilities and people who need them most. In other situations, health ministries may provide good health services but are not able to attract patients who use these services.
Health supply chain challenges in low- and middle-income countries include poor information systems, shortage of trained personnel, lack of appropriate equipment to store medicines, and poor roads and infrastructure leading to inadequate transport between central warehouses and local distribution points. There is also low engagement with private sector entities to strengthen supply chains, learn from private sector best practices, increase collaboration and savings on distribution costs and develop innovative ways of working.
Project Last Mile was created in 2010 to leverage and share core private sector expertise to improve health systems across Africa in a sustainable way. To do this, Project Last Mile leverages logistical, supply chain and marketing expertise of the Coca-Cola system to improve the reach and uptake of lifesaving medicines, including HIV medicines, and health services in Africa.
Project Last Mile partners include the Global Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Coca-Cola Company and Coca- Cola Foundation, local implementing partners and health ministries.
Following an initial commitment of more than US$21 million by partners in 2014, Project Last Mile has provided support to 10 countries in Africa. The partners announced an additional US$20 million in in-kind and financial support over the next five years in September 2019, allowing them to deepen their investment in existing countries and launch at least five new projects.
Tapping into Coca-Cola’s network of best-in-class creative marketing and consumer insight capacities, Project Last Mile worked with the Global Fund and Eswatini Health Promotion Unit to develop Girl Champ. It’s an innovative concept rooted in specialized research to better understand why HIV is an epidemic among young girls in Eswatini.
Girl Champ enables adolescent and young girls to become informed and empowered to consider their future and protect their health. It sets up safe spaces for youth-centered dialogue on pressing health issues in a girls-only health club. Nearly 2,000 girls have registered for health services.
After the Girl Champ activations, there was a 6% increase in girls accessing sexual and reproductive health services. During COVID-19, a specially created Girl Champ radio program was launched with messaging to reduce disruption on sexual and reproductive health services and prevent the spread of the virus.
Project Last Mile has also supported the launch of a national men's focused campaign to improve HIV treatment retention. The next campaign will target women living with HIV over age 30. Project Last Mile is now expanding to reach at-risk populations in Mozambique and Lesotho.