At 24, Josée do-Rego was working at a call center for a telecommunications company but was ready for a new challenge. Like many people her age, she didn’t have any experience with supply chains, and she certainly hadn’t dreamed of a career as a logistician. However, she came across an ad for motivated young professionals like her that would set her — and others– on a path to playing a key role in strengthening Benin’s health supply chain.
Benin has a population of over 12 million people, and the country is divided into 34 health zones, with each of these zones covering 100,000 to 200,000 people. Despite the country’s robust economic growth over the past five years, the country has one of the highest mortality rates for children under five, with malaria and neonatal disorders being two of the main health challenges faced by its population. Health services in Benin are delivered within a network of over 1,400 public, private, and confessional health institutions — facilities affiliated with a particular faith and run by a faith-based staff, like priests or nuns. Confessional health institutions are common throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including Benin, where a majority of the population is Christian. While there is a need to provide health commodities around the country in a timely and efficient manner, two pressing issues stand in the way: a lack of skilled human resources and poor reporting practices. These challenges make it difficult for health commodities to be continuously available at pharmacies and hospitals, particularly in remote areas.
To address these challenges, Benin’s Foundation of the Private Health Sector (PSSP) and the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Technical Assistance Francophone Task Order (GHSC-TA Francophone TO) came together to establish and implement the Young Logisticians Professionals Program (YLPP) in 2018. They designed the program to train and integrate youth into the health supply chain workforce to address human resource and health supply chain challenges in Benin. For Josée and many other young logisticians like her, the program also presented a training opportunity that could lead to a job in an exciting new field.
Harnessing Local Talent
After passing a series of required tests, YLPP recruits begin their training. Some recruits already have a background in public health before entering the program. Other recruits like Josée or Océane Houndjo, a former teleconsultant with a media company, may not have experience in public health nor logistics, but have transferrable skills that make for excellent supply chain professionals. The training for the YLPP focuses on both supply chain management and the intricacies of the Beninese health care system and includes logistics and data reporting, quantification and supply planning, logistics management information system (LMIS) use, and coordination of supply and distribution. During the intense two-week training period, recruits are trained on how to monitor health products for family planning and maternal and child health, malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, and more. They are also instructed on a variety of topics including cold chain management, product storage conditions, challenges of the supply chain, and gender and inclusion. Their eight-hour days include both theoretical and practical training, gearing them up for their roles as health supply chain professionals.
Océane and Josée completed their training in the same cohort in 2018 and officially became young logistician professionals (YLPs). Océane started carrying out her duties in the commune of Sô-Ava that same year. After completion of the program, YLPs participate in a brief ceremony where they receive certificates signed by the GHSC-TA Francophone TO and the PSSP. USAID pays their salaries and benefits, including health insurance and phone and motorbike maintenance allowances, through the GHSC-TA Francophone TO, while UNICEF or UNFPA provides laptops and motorbikes. On a regular day, Océane assists managers with purchase orders and trains administrative clerks in health facilities to input and track data to avoid stockouts. YLPs are also provided with general administrative and management skills and training to further their professional development well beyond the program.