International Rescue Committee Challenge – Improving packaging for medical supply delivery in Sierra Leone

By Henry Crabtree

Posted on

5 July 2023 – The International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global humanitarian organization that helps people affected by conflict and disaster, has launched a new Challenge aiming to capture innovative packaging solutions to be used in the delivery of medical supplies. To learn more about the IRC’s mission and more about the Challenges, visit the IRC Showcase.

The ‘Innovative Packaging for Last Mile Medical Supply Delivery’ Challenge is seeking proposals for innovative and affordable packaging that will protect and track supplies at every stage. Solutions could win up to US$25,000 for innovative and affordable packaging that meets these requirements and award criteria.

Join the Challenge today!

The Criteria

Innovations in this area should be priced at a relevant cost point of no more than US$14.80 per year per solution, inclusive of tracking functionality. Cost constraints are of paramount importance in this Challenge: so that the solutions provided can be adopted and used by ground teams, not only in Sierra Leone but across IRC operations globally.

‘Innovative Packaging for Last Mile Medical Supply Delivery’ will run until October 9 2023, with expert problem solvers from around the world submitting their ideas to win a share of the US$25,000 award pool. Using the Wazoku Crowd, the IRC is opening up this problem to the world for novel ideas, concepts, adaptations, or commercially available existing solutions.

The Background

Ground teams in Sierra Leone had reported that medicines, drugs, and other supplies often arrived damaged, or arrived with missing products. It is clear that the way medical supplies are packaged and transported is a major contribution to these issues. The Challenge’s solution requirements are designed directly to meet these pain points.

Solvers should provide solutions with trackability of packaging, resistance to tampering and weather, reusability of the boxes, and affordability – meaning more supplies reach ‘last mile’ clinics more consistently.

“Reusable, trackable, and weather/tamper-proof packaging solutions will contribute greatly to our mission,” said Wambui Waithaka, Pharmacy Advisor for the IRC. “We hope that this Challenge addresses the deficiencies in current medical supply delivery packaging. Unexplained delays, lack of quality assurance, and loss of stock hampers our pledge to provide high quality commodities to meet patient needs and improve health outcomes.”

Delivering medical supplies to people in ‘last mile’ clinics, the point of medicine and healthcare delivery (usually the last 10km in the supply chain), is a complicated process. People involved operate across the supply chain, third party logistics (3PLs), and ground teams from the IRC and beyond.

Technical Health Specialist for the IRC Khadija Saidi commented: “A loss factor of 12% across our distribution cycles can be attributed to theft, spoilage, and tampering due to inadequate packaging: significantly impacting healthcare delivery. Much of the country has limited options when accessing public healthcare, so any benefit will result in real outcomes. Transitioning to reusable packaging solutions would be more cost-effective and sustainable than current single-use boxes, while also bringing benefits to the overall integrity of the country’s supply chain.”

A View from the Challenge Sponsor

SeaFreight Labs is serving as a Project Advisor to the IRC on this Challenge.  Harry Sangree, Founder and CEO of SeaFreight Labs stated: “At its core, this is a logistics problem – with the twist of a severe cost constraint and a harsh operating environment.” Sangree added “I am hopeful that the experts in the Wazoku Crowd will apply their creativity and expertise to the problem so that the IRC finds a world-class way to transport life-saving medical supplies to rural clinics.”

Join the Challenge today to improve the logistics and supply chain of medical supply delivery in Sierra Leone!

By Henry Crabtree

Wazoku's Community Marketing Manager, Henry is also a life-long Manchester United fan - but we still love him, regardless. When he's not cheering the Reds on, he's working his way through an extensive reading list. Need a book recommendation? He's your man!