- In spring 2020, the unprecedented demand for many products has strained supply chains worldwide as production lines stopped working to avoid the spread of the corona virus epidemic.
- It became virtually impossible to find front line protective products against the virus: gloves, face masks and bottles of hand sanitizer.
- This situation prompted Chad to launch its first ever production of these precious flasks.
N’DJAMENA, October 8, 2020 – “This production of hand sanitizer is a first for Chad and it has been a tremendous experience of which we are proud,” explained Dr. Al Sadick Haroun Abdallah, Technical Director at the Ministry of Health, wholeheartedly. And well he may. After all, his approval was key to his country’s production launch of this disinfectant solution that has been in such demand worldwide since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “We have managed to rapidly respond to the shortage and the soaring prices for the rare few bottles still on the market,” explained the fifty-year-old who is also in charge of the laboratory.
A global shortage
Manufacturers of face masks, gloves and hand gels were taken by storm worldwide right from the onset of lockdown measures by governments to check the spread of the virus. And N’Djamena was no exception to this sudden new normal straight out of a science fiction film.
The announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that frequent hand washing was the most effective protective measure against the disease triggered a rush on drugstores for hand sanitizers. People waited in line sometimes for hours to procure the alcohol-based sanitizer, which first appeared on the market just 20 years ago, so they could disinfect their hands anywhere at any time. “It’s the third time they’ve told me to come back, but every time I do, all the bottles are already sold out,” carped Ramat Abdoulaye, exasperated at leaving a large downtown drugstore empty-handed.
Some went so far as to cross the border to stock up in Kousseri, a Cameroonian city some 20 kilometers from N’Djamena on the opposite bank of the Logone River. Even those in the medical sector were left to their own devices to cope with the shortage. “With the shortage of gel in the country, we had to get organized, each in our own way, to make our own from the WHO formula to protect our staff in contact with customers,“ explained Dr. Raksala Masna, President of the Chadian Order of Pharmacists.
An innovative solution for an extraordinary situation
The government response was to decide to use existing local structures to launch national production of hand sanitizers to supply primarily hospitals in the capital and provinces regularly out of stock.
This strategy called for a laboratory with up-to-the-minute equipment and a sufficient production capacity. The choice of the right laboratory for the job went to the brand new National Drug Quality Control Laboratory, inaugurated at the Center for Food Quality Control (CECOQDA) just a few months previously in September 2019. The laboratory, funded by the International Development Association under the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project, was initially set up to improve the preparation and quality control of medicines and other medical products used in maternal, newborn, child and nutritional health. “The project had decided that the laboratory should have high-level capacities and a certain amount of independence in order to take up the challenge of the emergence of counterfeits by improving knowledge of toxic chemical impurities and to adjust to the development of generic medicines and regulatory changes,” said Christophe Lemière, the project’s task team leader.
On April 17, 2020, the production unit went into operation with an output capacity of over 900 liters of hand sanitizer per day. The production line is run by between 20 and 25 technicians who tend to everything from manufacturing to quality checks and packaging.
“In addition to the support from projects already working in the health sector such as SWEDD, the World Bank has funded 68% of the financial cost of the emergency COVID-19 response plan adopted by the government in March 2020 for a total of CFAF 15 billion,” noted Rasit Pertev, World Bank Country Manager for Chad. “This emergency intervention is just the beginning of a vast effort planned by the World Bank Group to help Chad in key areas such as food security, social protection and educational continuity.”