The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

A powerful tool for positive change

Faced with widespread medicine shortages, UNOPS is procuring billions of dollars worth of medicines and medical supplies for the people of Mexico.

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This case study is featured in the 2020 sustainability report.

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In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spread from country to country, healthcare systems around the world were crippled as governments struggled to provide enough access to essential medicines, equipment and healthcare supplies for all.

Pandemic or no pandemic, improving access to safe, effective and quality medicines and vaccines remains one of the most complex problems that stands in the way of better public health. While affordability plays an important role in access to medicines, access also depends on the effectiveness of public procurement practices – where the level of transparency and supply chain management play an equally important role.

COVID-19 dramatically exposed widespread challenges in public procurement. Governments had to rethink their approaches to what they buy, how they buy and who they buy from.

Mexico, home to more than 120 million people, still has persistent health challenges in the delivery of public services. Reports of high prices and periodic shortages of medicines have plagued the public health system – one of the largest in the world. These challenges, brought on in part by alleged corruption and a lack of competition in drug distribution and regulations, have worsened healthcare inequalities.

To help maximize the efficiency, transparency and effectiveness of the procurement of medicines in Mexico, UNOPS partnered with the government in a landmark $6 billion agreement in 2020 to purchase medicines and medical supplies on behalf of Mexican health institutions.

UNOPS Regional Observatory for Medicine Prices will be used to provide a comparison of medicine prices from official sources in 21 countries – achieving the best prices and more effective use of public finances.


$6B
landmark agreement will support the government’s response to medicine shortages over the next four years

Signed at a critical time as the country grappled with COVID-19, the four-year agreement will support the country’s national development priorities to guarantee access to healthcare for the majority of the population by 2024.

As a UN institution, UNOPS offers the possibility to obtain good quality medicines at low prices and without corruption. We are going to solve the problem of medicine shortage.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador - President of Mexico

Through efficient procurement mechanisms, UNOPS will encourage competition, equal participation and transparency in the procurement process. The first set of medical supplies and medicines were purchased in December 2020. By 2021, we seek to supply medicines and medical supplies for 26 federal states.

+2K
types of medicines and medical supplies purchased on behalf of Mexican health institutions

Drawing on our expertise in public procurement and a successful track record in the region, UNOPS support will also help to promote transparency and efficient spending in Mexico’s public health sector. A sustainable procurement model is being developed that will increase the resilience of supply chains on behalf of the Institute of Health for Wellbeing, which is responsible for providing health coverage for around 65 million vulnerable people without social security. 

“This will be a game changer for quality healthcare and value-for-money for the people of Mexico,” says UNOPS Executive Director Grete Faremo.

By procuring billions of dollars worth of medicines and medical supplies, UNOPS is supporting the government’s response to medicine shortages, but importantly is also improving transparency and value-for-money – making public spending a powerful tool for positive change.


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