MSH Helps Afghanistan Rebuild Pharmaceutical Sector

With support from USAID, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) is helping Afghans rebuild their pharmaceutical sector for lasting health impact. The Strengthening Pharmaceutical Systems (SPS) Afghanistan Associate Award Program, led by MSH and funded by USAID, bolsters Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and its agencies through functional analysis, technical assistance, capacity assessment, and capacity building.

Clarifying Roles and Responsibility

Within any complex system, the roles of various agencies must be clarified to operate efficiently and effectively. Afghanistan’s intricate web of government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and private partners is no exception. SPS is assisting the MoPH to conduct a functional analysis of the General Directorate of Pharmaceutical Affairs’ roles and responsibilities in managing the country’s pharmaceutical services.

SPS also provided technical assistance to clarify and reintroduce the terms of reference for the National Medicine and Food Board (NMFB) and its committees. The National Medicine and Food Board’s terms were formally launched at a November 2011 forum that included 68 stakeholders from multiple sectors. The terms of reference for each of the food board’s committees were finalized and approved by the MoPH in January 2012.

Strengthening Individual and Organizational Capacity

Before building capacity, it is critical to first assess what capacity exists. SPS uses capacity assessments to design and deliver needs-based interventions to help individuals and agencies better assure the quality and availability of pharmaceutical products.

In recent months, SPS assessed the competencies of pharmaceutical workers in four provinces. Similarly, SPS assessed the quantification, procurement, and distribution (QPD) capacity of 26 stakeholders in the coordinated procurement and distribution system for medicines and commodities in Afghanistan. These stakeholders include three major donors (USAID, World Bank, and the European Commission) and their implementing partners. The assessment considered existing quantification, procurement, and distribution procedures, guidelines, and tools, and will help direct future interventions.

SPS staff also provided members of the Afghan Quantification Unit for Essential Medicines (QUEM) with a customized training based on the managing drug supply concept presented in the recently revised MDS-3: Managing Access to Medicines and Other Health Technologies.

Supporting Policy Development that Enables Effective Regulation

Capacity strengthening among Afghanistan’s many agencies and stakeholders is critical, but even the most highly trained individuals need supportive and enabling policy to succeed. SPS is supporting the revision of the National Medicines Policy by assisting the MoPH with the engagement of public and private stakeholders at a consultative workshop held October 2011. At the session, participants became familiar with the revision process, met the core team making the changes, and were encouraged to provide feedback. By soliciting buy-in to the process and the goal, SPS is helping ensure that the revised policy and regulatory framework will meet the needs of health providers and ensure that quality products are accessible to patients.