The Logistics of Staying Alive

'We can't improve a woman's standard of living if we can't improve a woman's chance of living.'

ATLANTA, June 29, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The following is an article written by Romaine Seguin of UPS.

The only way women are going to advance in the global economy is by having income, which means work.

But according to United Nations studies, only about half of the world's women participate in the labor force. Despite their under-representation, women comprise 60 percent of the world's working poor. What's more, a 2014 World Bank report shows that, on average, women earn 10 to 30 percent less than men for comparable work.

For millions of women, there's an even bigger issue than the ones emphasized by those statistics: you can't work if you can't stay alive. 

That's why, for anyone concerned about women's advancement, solutions should start with better women's health. Because we can't improve a woman's standard of living if we can't improve a woman's chance of living.

That conclusion leads us back to HIV/AIDS, the leading cause of women's deaths around the world. For women aged 15-44 years, who are in their peak earning years, HIV/AIDS infects 1,000 young women every day. 

Ultimately, higher standards of living depend on women and girls having avenues to power. Immediately, however, just living depends on women and girls having access to medication. The challenge is often getting it to them.

As a woman who works for the one of the world's leading logistics companies, I'm interested in how we can help improve women's health. I'm convinced that one of the biggest challenges to improving women's health globally is the supply chain. It's also the most promising solution.

The spread of HIV and AIDS can't be stopped with good intentions alone. Yet, until just a few years ago, that was virtually the only weapon available to the globe's most impoverished nations.

Fortunately, their arsenal is expanding. It now includes PEPFAR, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; and the Partnership for Supply Chain Management.

PEPFAR represents the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease internationally. It's driven by a shared responsibility among donor and partner nations and others to make smart investments to save lives.

When PEPFAR was launched in 2005, drug manufacturers permitted certain countries to receive generic versions of AIDS medications. But there was no system in place to buy and distribute those drugs on a mass scale to the people who needed them most.

Facing the Challenge

Getting that much medicine to that many people anywhere would be a challenge. But when the job is getting that much HIV medicine to that many people in the most underdeveloped countries of the world - which is PEPFAR's goal - the logistics challenges ramp up significantly. Among them: the lack of systems 
to distribute drugs on a mass scale, difficulty gauging demand, the expense of shipping medication overseas by air and unreliable in-country transportation systems.

To all those obstacles add these two facts: the temperature-sensitive nature of HIV pharmaceuticals and supplies and the distance between suppliers in India, China, the U.S. and the EU to clients across Africa and beyond.

The U.S. government decided to engage the Partnership for Supply Chain Management, a 12-member consortium of companies and humanitarian organizations. Its job was to purchase and distribute AIDS medications for PEPFAR.

UPS has been the project's lead logistics provider. Our role is working with the Partnership for Supply Chain Management to develop accurate demand forecasting methods, coordinate procurement and manage inventory.

So far, we've helped PEPFAR deliver life-changing care to people in 60 countries. In the process, we're helping to save millions of dollars by improving inventory management and distribution systems.

We've also reduced the amount of medication shipped by air, which was important in reducing costs. We once shipped 90 percent by air. We now send 60 percent of the supplies by sea.

But this public/private partnership isn't just improving a woman's chance of living. It's also helping to improve her standard of living.

By contracting with independent, locally owned trucking companies to complete the last leg of the distribution operation, the consortium is improving the economies of the regions PEPFAR serves.

The consortium is also working with the Global Fund and the World Health Organization to extend PEPFAR's best practices to other humanitarian projects.

Since its launch in late 2006, the PFSCM team has purchased and delivered over $1 billion dollars in medications and treatment supplies.

Improving the lives of women calls for keeping women alive. As we're seeing, evolving the supply chain into a reliable lifeline is one of the most effective strategies.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, once said:

"To awaken the people, it is the woman who must be awakened. Once she is on the move, the family moves, the village moves, the nation moves."

We're now putting women on the move. Logistics is advancing the lives of women and girls by saving the lives of women and girls.

With life, comes power. And with power, women will move the world - one family, one village, one nation at a time.

Romaine Seguin is President, UPS Americas Region.

Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.

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