The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities


The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities

A portrait of a young girl in Mukono district, Uganda, July 2014. ©UNICEF

Four years after it made recommendations to increase access and use of 13  underused, essential health commodities for women and children, the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities has helped  shape strategies in 19 countries to reduce maternal and children deaths and developed a wealth of knowledge resources and expertise.


Why focus on life-saving commodities?

Millions of women and children die every year of preventable causes. Too often, affordable, effective medicines and simple health supplies do not reach the women and children who need them most. The most common barriers that prevent them from receiving appropriate interventions include the insufficient supply of high quality health commodities where they are most needed; the inability to effectively regulate the quality of these commodities; and the lack of access and awareness on why, how and when to use them.


How do the recommendations translate into action?

Implementing the recommendations takes three forms:

Pooling expertise to address global and multi-country bottlenecks – Over 450 experts from 83 organizations worked to carry the Commission’s recommendations forward. Known as Technical Resource Teams, they developed a knowledge base of over 500 files.  As of September 2016, the knowledge developed by the TRT members and their expertise, will be captured in the Life-Saving Commodities Practitioners’ Network.

Pooling data to inform RMNC health strategies – A commodity tracking platform compiles commodity specific data – from manufacturing to procurement, distribution, health worker performance and demand generation. By using the 13 essential commodities as tracers, the tracking platform can identify what prevents women and children from accessing simple, essential medicines, and what interventions are the most efficient to remove those obstacles.

Supporting countries to make the 13 commodities more available and used In the initial phase, eight countries – Tanzania, Ethiopia, Senegal, DRC, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Uganda focused specifically on increasing access to and use of the commodities and related services. They developed national plans building on the Commission’s recommendations, and were funded in 2013 by the RMNCH Trust Fund.

Since then, another 11 countries took part in a RMNCH Country Engagement Process, also supported by the RMNCH Trust Fund. Also the scope of this process is broader, the focus on essential commodities remains central.

The follow-up to the Commission’s recommendations is undertaken under the UN Secretary General’s Every Woman Every Child banner, where together with other RMNCH initiatives, it contributes to meet the goals of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.