Partners in knowledge

Partners in knowledge
A nurse provides drugs to a mother at St. Pius Kidepo HC III in Moroto District, Uganda, April 2016.©UNICEF/Ose A nurse provides drugs to a mother at St. Pius Kidepo HC III in Moroto District, Uganda, April 2016. ©UNICEF/Ose


The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities was intended as a pragmatic and rapid mechanism to boost the reduction of maternal and child deaths, three years before the MDGs ran their course. The Commission was tasked to answer two basic questions: which medicines and health supplies can quickly make a difference in the health of women and children ? And how can we make sure women and children access these ?

When, in 2012, the UN Commission singled out 13 commodities, and developed recommendations to change how overlooked commodities were made available, distributed and used, we looked for a means to fast track their implementation. A dedicated fund would finance national plans for countries that were incorporating use of the essential commodities in their strategies to reduce maternal and child deaths as well as support technical groups of RMNCH professionals to develop advocacy tools, demand generation strategies, health worker toolkits and market intelligence to support these national strategies.

Four years on, substantial progress has been made on the ground through the financing of 19 countries that have been implementing RMNCH initiatives in which commodities are central. And the global support structure is thriving, with over 450 RMNCH experts spanning 83 organizations working to advance the UN Commission’s recommendations, a library of resources dedicated to removing barriers to commodities and a strong commodity focus in the new Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.


However, as we look to the next phase of implementing the Commission’s recommendations, which are still very relevant and far from complete, we found out that these global knowledge resources, intended to help eradicate specific access barriers, do not easily and necessarily reach the health workers, practitioners and policy makers in-country who could most benefit from them. Making them available is not enough: a document repository quickly becomes obsolete. What makes knowledge valuable is its relevance to audiences and the ability to adapt, adopt and customize it to different contexts.

These are assets and challenges we had not foreseen and which called for a new set up.

We are therefore setting up a Life-Saving Commodities Practitioners’ Network to translate the learning and know-how that the global experts have developed into country-level action, and importantly, capture country and regional experience and knowledge on how to increase access to life-saving commodities.

The RMNCH experts from global, regional and countries have acquired an in-depth expertise of what prevents essential commodities from reaching women and children who need them most, what could be done, and how to remove these barriers. What started as a loose coalition to implement the UN Commission’s recommendations is now turning out to be a valuable knowledge partnership. It is time to bring this to the next level and ensure we continue to build, share and put in practice this knowledge as we work towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Combining a knowledge library, a network of experts and real-time country experience, this community will represent an invaluable asset to ensure all essential life-saving commodities are put into the hands of health workers with the necessary skills to administer them properly and at the right time to save women and children. Please join us in this effort!

Benedicte Walter, RMNCH Strategy and Coordination Team

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