Essential medicines and health products

WHO-Health Action International (HAI) regional collaboration for Action on Essential Medicines in Africa

What has been achieved by the collaboration

Dispensing of medicines in an African clinic

Program evaluations conducted by HLSP and DFID Health Resource Centre have together found that the WHO-HAI Africa collaboration’s greatest success lies in its ability to bind together all government, private and civil society stakeholders whose collective expertise is necessary for successful planning and implementation of an essential medicines strategy. By nurturing a productive policy making space of mutual trust, respect and evidence-based planning, the collaboration has provided the critical boost of capacity building and network strengthening needed to help countries manage their own populations’ particular medicine access challenges. Our work follows the framework of the WHO Medicine Strategy and is divided in 5 areas: implementation and monitoring of medicines policies; advocacy for fair financing and affordability; well-functioning medicine supply systems; safety regulations and quality assurance; and promoting rational use of medicines. Some of our most remarkable achievements in these areas are listed here. For more detailed information please see our full evaluation report.

Medicines Policy

Medicines Policies at the country level are instrumental for improving the access and affordability of medicines; along with regular monitoring and assessment. During the first four years of the project:

  • 7 countries have adopted a National Medicine Policy and another 4 countries have prepared drafts.
  • 15 countries have completed comprehensive pharmaceutical assessments.

Affordability and financing

Fair pricing of essential medicines for resource-restricted countries is a critical issue for effective health systems, and a considerable amount of work has been done to address this complex challenge. In particular:

  • 14 countries have conducted pricing survey to assess the affordability of drugs, using the WHO/HAI methodology. The results of the surveys have been leveraged for advocacy.
  • To strengthen the effects of the survey process, 5 countries have set up a regular monitoring system, while 6 have continued the data collection with in-depth studies of price components and financing mechanisms.

Procurement and supply

An effective and efficient system of drug procurement is key to ensuring that all patients obtain the medicines they need, regardless of where they receive care. Unfortunately, fragmented delivery systems and poor inter-sectoral coordination are often significant hurdles for strengthening drug supply within countries. The WHO/HAI collaboration has provided a key centralizing, coordinating mechanism to address this challenge.

  • 11 countries have assessed and mapped their procurement and supply system.
  • 4 countries have elaborated plans to improve their procurement and supply system.
  • Manuals for management of medicines have been adapted, printed and distributed.
  • More than 25 workshops and training sessions have been carried out to build capacity in 13 countries.

Regulation and quality control

Coupled with effective drug procurement is the need to ensure that medicines are produced according to acceptable standards of safety and efficacy. By improving country capacity for partnership building and knowledge sharing, the collaboration has also facilitated improved regulation and provided training on quality control of pharmaceuticals.

  • 15 countries have assessed their Regulatory Authority and have been supported to elaborate plans for improvement.
  • 14 countries have improved internal capacity through workshops and training.
  • 8 countries have installed a computerized registration system.
  • 7 countries have enacted legislation or guidelines for the regulation of pharmaceuticals.

Rational Use

Finally, we constantly work to make sure that medicines are used in a rational way as this is also essential for securing widespread population health. Our work in this area has been particularly fruitful.

  • 12 countries have developed or updated an Essential Medicines List.
  • 12 countries have developed or updated their Standard Treatment Guidelines.
  • Prescribers have been trained in rational use in 15 countries.
  • Drugs and Therapeutics Committees and Medicines Information Centres have been established in respectively 4 and 2 countries.

For more information on the work supported through the collaborative aspects of the programme, please contact one of the Responsible Programme Officers:

Dr. Gilles Forte, Team Coordinator WHO/MPC. Avenue Appia 20 27 Geneva- CH-1211 Switzerland. Tel: +41 22 791 36 17. Fax: +41 22 791 41 67. E-mail:

Mr Patrick Mubangizi, Regional Coordinator HAI Africa. P.O. Box 73860-00200- Nairobi, Kenya. Tel: +254 20 4444835 . Fax: +254 20 444 10 90. E-mail: