BACKGROUND: WHO and UNICEF have recently developed the "Integrated Management of Childhood Illness" (IMCI) as an efficient strategy to assist developing countries reduce childhood mortality. Early experience with IMCI implementation suggests that clinical training is essential but not sufficient for the success of the strategy. Attention needs to be given to strengthening health systems, such as supervision and drug supply. RESULTS: This paper presents results of evaluating an innovative approach for implementing IMCI in Niger. It starts with strengthening district level supervision and improving the availability of child survival drugs through cost recovery well before the beginning of IMCI clinical training. The evaluation documented the effectiveness of the initial IMCI clinical training and referral. CONCLUSIONS: Strengthening supervision and assuring the availability of essential drugs need to precede the initiation of IMCI Clinical training. Longer term follow up is necessary to confirm the impact of the approach on IMCI preparation and implementation.