Health Supply Chain Mentoring: A Game Changer in Kebbi State, Nigeria

By Mubarak Balarabe, state coordinator for the Logistics Management Coordination Unit (LMCU), Kebbi State, Nigeria.

I joined the International Association of Public Health Logisticians (IAPHL) somewhere in 2019 and right away became a very active member, including in my country chapter where we have monthly discussions. This community of practice helped me to improve our supply chain, which delivers health supplies to 527 health facilities as well as almost a million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Kebbi State. In 2022, over a three-month period, I worked with JSI supply chain advisor and mentor Anabella Sanchez to complete a series of mentorship sessions that I received through the Health Commodities Logistics (HCL) Community of Practice, a subgroup of IAPHL. During a routine training session at Koko Town Dispensary, Mubarak Balarabe shows staff how to use a vaccine vial monitor (Right Photo: Kebbi State LMCU).

The mentoring was a game changer. It changed the way I look at a lot of things and it changed our work in Kebbi State Logistics Management Coordination Unit (LMCU). One of the things I learned was how to manage our key performance indicators (KPIs). Anabella shared a template for a supply chain management monitoring and performance improvement plan with me, and she explained how to use it to manage KPIs such as stockout rates. She also showed me the importance of identifying personnel requiring training and mobilizing resources to bridge the gaps.

After the mentoring sessions, I shared the information with my colleagues, and we are now following the performance improvement plan and implementing many of the things I learned. For example, before the mentorship sessions, my perception about staff that were not trained was, “We have to look for support and funding to do a formal training for them.” After the mentoring, we sat down, and we looked at other resources we could leverage to train our personnel.

We didn’t have a full list of our personnel and their training needs, but because of the template that Anabella shared with me, I looked at all my personnel. Through interviews with them, I discovered the areas where they had challenges, and we introduced informal training.

When we visit a health facility, we do what we call on-the-job training and mentorship, which doesn’t require much funding and doesn’t require the health facility be without their staff to attend a formal training. We discovered that on-the-job training could change a lot of things. We do things practically and we discuss with the staff. They are happy and we don’t disturb their work at the health facility.

One of our challenges has been a high level of dependence on partners for technical and material support. After the mentorship, I brought the performance improvement plan to my supervisor, who is the director of pharmaceutical services. I showed him where additional support from the government is needed, and he said he would take it to the higher authority and make sure that the LMCU is fully involved during budget planning for the state so we can advocate for what we need.

Another thing I learned from Anabella was the importance of stakeholder coordination and teamwork, especially performance improvement teams. Because of the mentoring, we could all see that we needed to reorganize our stakeholder team because support for the LMCU was on and off. We said, even if we don’t have support, let us have a team. We don’t need to rely fully on partners. Partners come and go. Our team, the Procurement and Supply Chain Management Technical Working Group (PSM-TWG), is now fully organized and comprises supply chain program managers, state actors including various state directors, and implementing partners. The PSM-TWG gives us a state structure that drives supply chain activities, and it includes people outside the LMCU with things to contribute and a stake in health logistics. The people on this new team are now the drivers of change.

We really have made a difference. Even the director of pharmaceutical services said that we brought a lot of innovation and stakeholder engagement. All of these things are a result of the mentorship experience I had. At the primary health care facility in Zauro, Mubarak Balarabe provides on-the-job training to pharmacy technicians on how to use inventory control cards and other logistics data tools (Right Photo: Kebbi State LMCU).

For somebody who is starting a mentoring experience, my advice is that you have to be available anytime you are called upon, you have to be passionate, and you have to open your heart in such a way that you will implement what you learn from your mentor. I would like to thank my mentor, Anabella Sanchez; JSI; IAPHL and HCL; as well as USAID for supporting my community of practice and making this mentorship possible.

As a result of this experience, Mubarak and the LMCU in Kebbi State are able to better coordinate with local and global stakeholders, including humanitarian organizations, as they provide support during the ongoing crisis in northern Nigeria. Humanitarian organizations and donors that have assisted Kebbi State in recent years include Médecins Sans Frontières, Save the Children, UNICEF, and USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. The LMCU manages all public health supply chain activities of Kebbi State, which include essential medicines and COVID-19 commodities for IDPs.

Mubarak Balarabe is a pharmacist and state coordinator for Kebbi State LMCU. As an active member of IAPHL and HCL, Mubarak continues to benefit from and contribute to the group’s networking, resources, peer support, and access to health supply chain expertise. The HCL community of practice is supported by the Building Capacity to Improve Health Commodity Management in Humanitarian and Disaster Settings project, with support from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).

This story was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. (JSI) and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID/BHA or the United States Government.

Member Spotlight: Mubarak Balarabe on Health Supply Chain Mentoring