For more than three decades, from 1974 until 2004, CDC's Division of Reproductive Health (DRH) provided technical assistance to improve contraceptive logistics systems in developing countries. This assistance, which was funded by USAID, is no longer provided by CDC; interested parties can contact the USAID funded DELIVER project at John Snow, Inc.
Although CDC/DRH no longer provides contraceptive logistics assistance, some contraceptive logistics information and materials from CDC’s 36 years of experience in the field are provided here.
Managing Contraceptive Supplies
Every family planning program must have a good supply of contraceptives on hand at all times. Running out of contraceptives can lead to unwanted pregnancies and can also do serious harm to a family planning program’s reputation and effectiveness. On the other hand, an oversupply can lead to wasted or damaged contraceptives.
The need to keep the right quantity of supplies on hand is obvious, but how you do it is not. It is the contraceptive logistics system that (if working properly) assures that every service delivery point and warehouse in the system always has an adequate supply of all the necessary contraceptives and other supplies, in good condition.
Contraceptive logistics is simple to understand yet somewhat complex to manage. Like all health care or distribution systems, a contraceptive logistics system has several levels. Each facility at each level needs to keep an appropriate quantity of supplies on hand at all times. The central level of the program generally orders contraceptives from the manufacturer or donor. Once they arrive, the contraceptive supplies travel from the central warehouse down through one or more intermediate levels (i.e., regional, provincial, and district warehouses), and finish up at the service delivery level where they are dispensed to contraceptive users. In many countries, the administration of family planning programs has been decentralized, so lower levels of the system are now responsible for their own logistics management. In recent years, a number of health programs and ministries have integrated their supply systems so that family planning supplies are now managed along with other health commodities.
The goal of a logistics system is to ensure that every family planning client always receives the contraceptives she or he wants, and that they are in good condition and have not expired. To select, procure, and distribute the right quantities of the right contraceptives, managers of the logistics system must keep informed of the rates of use of each contraceptive and of the quantity of available supplies. This requires the following:
- Timely and accurate reporting.
- Proper storage.
- Close monitoring and managing quantities of contraceptives dispensed.
Contraceptive Shelf Life and Storage Conditions
|Type of Contraceptive||Required Storage Conditions||Shelf Life|
|Oral Contraceptives||Store away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry location (below 40° C).||5 years (3 years for some manufacturers)|
|Condoms||Below 40°C. No long-term exposure to high humidity, direct sunlight, fluorescent light, or ozone. Don’t store near chemicals.||4 years (for USAID-donated; may vary according to national policy)|
|Diaphragms||Below 40°C. No long exposure to high humidity, extreme temperatures, ozone, or direct sunlight. Don’t store near chemicals.||5 years|
|Injectable||Below 40°C. Away from direct sunlight. Store vials upright.||3–5 years, depending on manufacturer|
|IUDs||Below 40°C. Protect from direct sunlight and excessive moisture.||7 years (for USAID-donated; varies by IUD type)|
|Norplant/Implants||Below 30°C. Dry location.||3 or 5 years|
|Spermicides||Between 15 and 30°C. No extreme fluctuations in temperature or humidity. Cans should be stored in upright position.||3 to 5 years (5 years for USAID-donated, 3 years for others)|
|Vaginal foaming tablets||Below 40°C.||2–3 years|
Pocket Guide to Managing Contraceptive Supplies
The Pocket Guide to Managing Contraceptive Supplies (available in English [PDF - 1.12MB], French [PDF - 270KB] and Spanish [PDF - 297KB]) serves as a quick reference for the staff of family planning or health clinics who manage contraceptive supplies and for the supervisor who oversees these logistics activities.
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