The supply chain (SC) for immunisation comprises all individuals, activities, structure, resources and planning relevant for facilitating effective and safe delivery of vaccines to those that need them. In developing countries, such as Nigeria, SC capacity is inadequate to meet the ever-increasing population needs.
To improve immunisation coverage and subsequently reduce infant and child mortality, a strong SC system is essential, requiring advanced technology to be applied to all aspects of the SC system; from planning to cold chain equipment, data management and distribution of commodities. At the heart of these at all levels of the health system is the need for SC leadership which requires skilled and competent individuals who are empowered to deal with the present and future challenges.
In a bid to strengthen the SC leadership in governments, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), in collaboration with United Parcel Services (UPS) (a private global logistics company), developed the Strategic Training Executive Programme (STEP). Regional Director, Africa Resource Centre for Supply Chain (ARC), Azuka Okeke, explained that STEP presents a unique opportunity for countries like Nigeria to develop supply chain leaders who will advance transformation in effective and efficient immunization delivery.
“One of the key areas of focus of the STEP training in Nigeria is building strong leaderships at national and state Government levels that will drive ownership of health programs beyond Vaccines Management. ARC led the adoption of the STEP by the Nigerian government through providing insight on the relevance of the program to the decision-makers in immunization,” Azuka explained.
She continued: “National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) through the advocacy support of ARC made a formal request to GAVI to implement the STEP strategy in Nigeria. The ARC, collaboration between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, (PHN) serves as an advisor to the government on public health supply chain strategies provides thought partnerships in the adoption of transformation agendas for supply chain improvement. ARC facilitated the adoption of the STEP by the agency and is currently facilitating the implementation of the program in the country.”
Supply Chain Consultant for GAVI, Magloire Achidi, explained that GAVI recognizes the critical importance of investing in skill development for global supply chain leaders as a result GAVI partnered with UPS to provide health supply chain management professionals and decision makers in various countries across the globe with leadership and management skills at all levels of the health system to enable them to overcome existing and emerging challenges.
The STEP training, which is based on an academic framework of professional competencies for supply chain managers, combines traditional learning with on-the-job training, thereby assisting supply chain leaders to develop their problem-solving skills and foster effective team-building approaches.
“Leaders bring people together to tap their collective wisdom. When doing so, you must be prepared for differences of opinion and conflict. Becoming an effective negotiator can reveal new opportunities, sharpen your focus, satisfy your needs and improve your relationships” George Bray, Vice President, Member Engagement, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (one of the sponsors of GAVI STEP training) explained.
Kevin Etter, Director, Public Health and Safety/Humanitarian, United Parcel Service (UPS), explained that the importance of leadership rings within every industry with leadership seen as a critical driver for success.
“Leadership is getting the work done through people. A leader sets direction motivates and builds an inspiring vision, as well as creates something new. Leaders inspire others, possess decision-making capabilities, and should be focused on the vision to inspire others to the overall goal” Etter stated.
Participants at the GAVI STEP training re-echoed how this training has reshaped their thinking in how strategic and efficient they will be in discharging their duties as supply chain leaders in Nigeria.
“The GAVI STEP training has exposed us to what leadership is all about right from team building, success and sustaining success. I have gained useful insights on how to become more strategic, efficient and accountable for my actions in my organisation” Deputy Director, NPHCDA, Pharm Chinenye Ekpemauzor, has said.
Niger State Immunisation Officer, Dr Samuel Jiya, explained that “One measure of one’s success is the degree to which one builds up others who work with that individual. Team effectiveness happens when there is a clear and compelling purpose, skills that are complementary & mutual accountability. Everybody in a team is important, and that is why we must sustain team relationship.”
It is noteworthy to state that ARC structural assistance to NPHCDA include the advocate for the adoption of the STEP initiative to the National Logistics Working Group (NLWG), support GAVI to identify and train the in-country organization that will lead the STEP facilitation, support GAVI, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW) and the in-country organization to deliver the one-week classroom training, support the STEP Mentorship phase by identifying and engaging private sector mentors for the public health leaders amongst others.