Real-time Data Strengthening Uganda’s Response to COVID-19

Speeches Shim

Friday, May 1, 2020
Kasese district task team after training on eELMIS and PHE supply chain

Identifying opportunities to improve global health requires innovation and creative thinking.  In developing countries like Uganda, the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the already-strained health system. Access to primary health care remains difficult for many people, and quality of care is inconsistent, with limited drugs, supplies and human resources. The referral system is weak and patients often delay seeking necessary secondary or tertiary care due to the high costs involved.  Additionally, evidence-based management of logistics is not consistently followed and facility-based quality improvement initiatives, while they exist, have not been institutionalized uniformly.

Through the Uganda Health Supply Chain Activity, USAID is supporting the COVID-19 response by providing real-time data on health supplies both at national and district levels. Real-time data systems employ digital technologies and specialized software applications to enable collection, sharing, management, analysis, and reporting of data to inform more rapid and timely decision-making.

The Electronic Emergency Logistics Management Information System, also known as eELMIS, is a USAID-funded web-based tool that makes it possible to receive and respond in real time to a district or facility orders for medical supplies in any public health emergency, including COVID-19.  Through the tool, donor organizations can share information on supplies and assess gaps, and partners at national, district, and facility levels can enter their medical stock requests into the system.  These orders are viewed by Ministry of Health staff who verify, approve, or reject the orders through the Emergency Operations Center. Whatever the action taken, both the district and the facility will receive SMS alerts on the status of the order.

With the emergence of COVID-19, demand for supplies increased at facilities, including regional referral and general hospitals. Luckily, the eELMIS tool is flexible enough to accommodate the changes. In its design, the eELMIS has a centralized command structure for dealing with emergencies like COVID-19 and the need for pre-positioning emergency supplies closer to the districts. From eight hubs located in Arua, Entebbe, Masindi, Mbale, Mbarara, Kasese, Kotido and Lira, trained staff were equipped to serve a cluster of districts in the respective regions, which helped avoid crowding and delays at the central warehouse.

This unique leveraging of existing resources is not only helping to keep Ugandans healthy, but also demonstrating the tremendous value of having systems that capture health information electronically and using the collected data to make fast course actions to provide medical supplies.

“During emergency response operations accountability is key – people want to see value and impact from their contribution. With the eELMIS, incident managers and the country’s decisionmakers, with a click of a button, can see exactly which orders came through and where the commodities are being delivered to,” says Noah Kafumbe, Senior Supply Chain System Advisor for USAID.

The USAID-funded system is strengthening Uganda’s real-time data capacity for the effective management and utilization of essential medicines and health supplies, which is key to fighting pandemics like COVID-19.