Meet our experts – Etleva “Eva” Kadilli, Director of UNICEF Supply Division
The head of UNICEF Supply Division talks about the challenges and opportunities in the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
How long have you been working at UNICEF and how are you involved in the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines?
This month I am completing 25 years serving the world’s children with UNICEF. I am the Director of UNICEF Supply Division, based in Copenhagen and home to the largest humanitarian warehouse in the world. This is a state-of-the-art warehouse and distribution hub. We work to make available life-saving supplies for children and communities who need them. Access to essential supplies is a child’s right and is at the core of our mandate, more so today than ever.
UNICEF has a very important role in supporting the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX Facility. Along with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), we have been entrusted with leading the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for 92 low- and lower middle-income countries. Together with other parts of UNICEF, Supply Division plays a key role in this vital work. I am proud to be part of the team driving this forward and spearheading the procurement of 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility in 2021, together with our partners Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, CEPI and PAHO.
"We have never been confronted with such urgency on a global scale and it will require all-hands-on-deck across UNICEF and our partners."
What is the biggest challenge you are facing to accomplish the COVAX Facility’s mission?
There are many complexities like logistics, procurement, supply availability and high demand. The timeline, in particular, is unlike any we have faced before - it will be the largest and fastest procurement and supply operation ever.
There are also many unknowns. Progress on the development of vaccines changes on a daily basis. This means we must plan for diverse scenarios which adds to the complexities.
But, with challenge comes opportunity. This is a historic moment in vaccine development and in public health. We can use it to build back better and to strengthen health systems and services.
We are not just starting now — we have a strong foundation with our approach to support government systems strengthening for immunization. UNICEF has amassed decades of unique expertise in vaccine procurement, transport and delivery. This, combined with our strength in market shaping, puts us in a solid position to rise to this challenge. And our strong country presence is supporting countries to get ready for the rollout of the vaccines and help them address misinformation and vaccine hesitancy. In the past three years alone, UNICEF, GAVI, and partners have been investing in upgrading more than 70,000 health facilities with cold chain equipment by the end of 2021.
What makes COVAX unique compared to other major missions or projects you have been involved in with UNICEF?
The scale of this operation is unprecedented. To give you a sense: each year, UNICEF procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines, reaching approximately 45 per cent of the world’s children under five years of age. The procurement of COVID-19 vaccines is projected to more than double UNICEF’s overall procurement volumes across all vaccines in 2021, in addition to other related supplies such as syringes and safety boxes.
We have never been confronted with such urgency on a global scale and it will require all-hands-on-deck across UNICEF and our partners. This effort will demand that we scale new heights as we mobilize and connect with partners at all levels, including governments, the private sector, civil society organizations, and development banks.
In 20 years, how would you like to hear people tell the story of the COVAX Facility to children and young people?
I hope that they will see this as a point in history where we, in UNICEF, made a choice for the future – a choice to build back better and imagine a better future for children, and to create stronger systems that would endure for decades to come.
I hope that they tell the story of how we used a crisis to create an opportunity. And that as a result we were part of a movement that facilitated equitable and rapid access to vaccines across the world.
And I hope they tell them we did it with resolve, with persistence, and working with partners – because we are always stronger together.
Etleva (Eva) Kadilli is Director of UNICEF’s Supply Division, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, overseeing UNICEF's global supply chain and market shaping functions with an annual expenditure exceeding US$7 billion. In this role, she leads the effective, efficient and ethical provision of essential and emergency supplies for children, through direct UNICEF programmes, and in cooperation with national governments, donors, private sector and partners.
Responsible for the management of UNICEF’s supply response to humanitarian crises, Ms. Kadilli is presently leading the organization’s strategic procurement and logistics response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes accelerated access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, as well as other supplies such as syringes, PPE, cold chain equipment, and oxygen.
Ms. Kadilli represents UNICEF in a number of global forums, including the COVAX Facility governance team where see oversees UNICEF’s role as procurement coordinator and lead agency for COVAX supply and logistics. She is an alternate member of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and sits on Gavi Committees for Audit and Finance and Market Sensitive Decisions. Ms. Kadilli also represents UNICEF in interagency engagements on UN procurement reform, and sits on the Board of ATScale, the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology.
A UNICEF staff member for over 25 years, Ms. Kadilli has held roles in headquarters and the field, in both development and emergency contexts, including Albania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Gambia and Somalia. Previous to her appointment as Director in March 2018, her positions with Supply Division included Deputy Director, Supply Chain and Chief of Contracting.
A strong advocate for staff well-being and culture change, Ms. Kadilli champions the professional development of UNICEF’s supply and logistics staff, including ‘young UNICEF’ professionals.
Ms. Kadilli holds a Master’s degree in Science with a specialty in Finance. She is an Albanian national.
*Updated in September 2022.