Supply Processes Made Easier for UNICEF
By Monica Awad
RAMALLAH, 20 May 2005 - On a spring day, early morning, a group of UNICEF-occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) staff members drove in the UNICEF van heading towards Ramallah – northern of Jerusalem. The whole group was full of excitement, not only because we were all together in the same car, but most importantly, we were looking forward to the 5-day supply workshop carried out by four experts from Copenhagen supply division.
The discussion throughout the drive to Ramallah, covered many challenges in supply processes. “The school bags need to be here prior to beginning of school year. We cannot afford to receive supplies late’ said Rasha, Education Assistant. Other challenges included lack of hands-on-training to better understand supply processes. ‘We need our supply section to provide us with tips to enable us to meet the demands of our vaccine procurement process’ added Wafa, Health Assistant. Further challenges were raised covering planning issues and the ability to pre-position supplies. ‘We need standard lists to save time for our adolescents activities’ said Mary, Adolescents Assistant.
These comments were very familiar to each one of us driving together in the van. Similar comments were made in the office and from various sections. ‘The supply section is spending more than 60% of the total budget, but we truly have many bottlenecks’ admitted Othman, Supply Officer.
Such comments, and felt bottlenecks in supply processes motivated our management to carry out a supply training workshop for all UNICEF – oPt staff members. The 5-day workshop was carried out by Josephine, Vivi, Robert, and Paul – the four supply experts from Supply Division from Copenhagen.
As we arrived our destination, we were all happy to meet up with our colleagues from the six zonal offices for the first time since the beginning of the current conflict. Due to restricted access and limitations on travel for national staff, it was not possible for the whole office to meet in the country. The last time the whole staff was able to meet together was during the 2004 office retreat in Jordan.
The first day started out with remarks by our Representative Dan: ‘This workshop is timely, following an audit of our office. We as a team, need to be competitive and able to ensure effectiveness and accountability to donors, partners, and most of all children’
We were all divided into six groups where we were asked to jot down our expectations of the workshop. Expectations covered many supply components, supply planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation including interpersonal skills and clarity of division of labour.
All throughout the five-day workshop, the discussions focused on supply planning processes, client service, procurement, and logistics. The list went on and on.
Every team member was very dynamic and participatory. All members of the team, throughout the discussions, were asking questions, identifying bottlenecks and proposed solutions. ‘I am very glad that there is openness in the room where colleagues discuss challenges in a positive manner. Everybody is really committed and participating actively’ said Josephine, the trainer.
As we discussed in-country logistics, Hanadi, Project Officer from the Tulkarem zonal office spoke the most. She was very eager to learn more about the supply chain in reaching children. ‘ As a member of the team, and being in a zonal office, our role is as crucial in ensuring access of supplies and its delivery to Palestinian children’ said Hanadi.
During one of the coffee breaks, as we were getting out of the training hall, Waleed, the Supply Assistant, told me that he is very satisfied with the workshop. He has been working in supply section at UNICEF for over eight years. Looking at me through his eye glasses, Waleed said:’ I am very happy. Operations and programme sections are speaking the same language now’.
On the fourth day of the workshop and during luncheon break, I chatted with Patricia, our Operations Officer who told me that this workshop exceeded her expectations. ‘It is truly one of the best workshops held by UNICEF, that I ever participated in’ said Patricia. With a big smile on her face, she continued on saying that the issues discussed during the workshop, were very relevant to our country office situation and that it would help us improve our work processes and attain our common goals and objectives.
As one enters the training hall during the last day of the workshop, one can easily witness the high participation level of staff and their open engagement in the discussions. A number of learning points were identified and key action plans were raised.
The 5-day supply workshop carried out by the Supply Division is the first country specific workshop carried out within the Middle East and North Africa region. It tightens the relationship between country offices and Supply Division in Copenhagen. It also provides country offices with relevant information and equips them with improved skills and processes on supply related issues.