The Project Last Mile, a public-private partnership that shares Coca-Cola’s expertise to support delivery of life-saving medicines and supplies to communities that are most in need, has launched a cold chain equipment maintenance project in Lagos.
The project, which is still in its pilot phase, has been launched to support Lagos State’s immunisation programme through sharing refrigeration maintenance expertise from Coca-Cola’s experience. Nigeria requires 10,000 items of working cold chain equipment to cover its health facilities. However, 41 per cent of clinics have no vaccine coolers and 35 per cent of vaccine coolers are non-functional with only 4,500 vaccine coolers functioning fully.
On the other hand, Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), Coca-Cola’s bottling partner, ensures 24 to 48-hour repairs on all its 77,000 refrigeration units in the country, leaving the units working 99 per cent of the time. For this reason, the state government has partnered with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), NBC and Coca-Cola to strengthen public sector refrigeration or “cold chain” capacity in the state with the primary objective to improve access to vaccines.
Expectedly, since the start of the cold chain equipment maintenance pilot programme in January 2019, an average of three cold chain equipment are repaired per day in Lagos and 61 per cent of non-functional coolers have since been repaired and are now fully working. The results of the pilot phase, which will run till August 2019, will determine the decision to expand the project to the rest of the country – all with the goal to enhance access to vaccines in Nigeria.
Across Nigeria, the government and donors are investing billions of dollars to strengthen health systems and make vaccines available to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases like polio, measles, and pertussis (whooping cough). Because vaccines need to be carefully stored and shipped at specific temperatures to remain effective, it therefore means an improvement in cold chain capacity can help to reduce vaccine waste from malfunctioning cold storage at health facilities; it will make lifesaving vaccines to be available where and when they are needed.
Commending the initiative, Dr. Lateef Lawal, permanent secretary Lagos, State Primary Health Care Board, said: “This partnership is an example of our commitment to carrying out our mandate to provide quality healthcare delivery in Lagos State. A well-functioning cold chain equipment maintenance programme will help us make sure that vaccines are available where and when needed.”