UNICEF Supply Community – achieving results in a challenging year

UNICEF supply and logistics staff around the world reflect on the efforts to deliver aid in a complex year for the world.

UNICEF
A UNICEF staff member seen from the back raises his left arm at Luanda's Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport, in March 2021
UNICEF/UN0424244/COVAX/Carlos César
19 August 2022

Working in supply procurement and logistics can be challenging at the best of times. In 2021, as the dimensions and scope of UNICEF’s pandemic response grew, delivering humanitarian aid was more complicated than ever. The Supply Community faced supply chain disruptions, while dealing with local complexities and access issues, but took on challenges by working together to become stronger and more connected.

To successfully navigate contextual, economic, and logistical barriers – and deliver at speed – the Supply Community relied on its wide range of skills and talents while keeping pace with a high volume of work. 

Supply colleagues around the world tell their stories about the challenges they navigated to deliver for every child. 


Abel Barros, UNICEF Argentina Administrative and Supply Associate

Abel Barros, UNICEF Argentina Administrative and Supply Associate
UNICEF/UNICEF Argentina

From March to June 2021, I was asked to help out with the migration crisis on the border with Mexico. Nearly 500 people were arriving at the border each day, including many children and pregnant and lactating mothers. Our emergency response focused on providing WASH (water and sanitation) supplies to the shelters, along with hygiene kits and other materials to help support the families while they were waiting for a legal solution to their migration status.

The biggest challenge was to coordinate efforts with other UN agencies, NGOs, and government counterparts, which we managed to do through shared planning, good communication, and a strong commitment to leave no child behind. What made the work rewarding was to see the relief and joy on the children’s faces, as well as on those of their mothers and local communities when they received the supplies or accessed the health, education, and protection services which were unavailable to them back home. 


Safa Belhaj, UNICEF Libya Supply Associate

I handle end-to-end supply-related actions, and in 2021, this included acting as the COVID-19 vaccination supply focal point to ensure UNICEF delivered on its commitment to the Libyan Government to bring the very first COVID-19 vaccine consignment into the country. By the end of the year, despite the difficult logistics related to the pandemic and the local security situation, UNICEF managed to procure and deliver 2.4 million vaccine doses – 65 per cent of COVAX’s total allocation for Libya.

Working full time for two country offices – Yemen and Libya – for three months was a particularly challenging experience. It exposed me to new ways of working while also placing me under enormous pressure and workload. But it was also a rewarding time and I managed to handle the workload smoothly.

Safa Belhaj, UNICEF Libya Supply Associate
UNICEF/UNICEF Lybia

Abolfazl Khosravi, UNICEF Iran Senior Supply Associate

Abolfazl Khosravi, UNICEF Iran Senior Supply Associate
UNICEF/UNICEF Iran

With Iran under sanctions, making sure COVID-19 vaccines could be delivered required some unique approaches. As a member of UNICEF Iran’s COVAX task force, I was responsible for working with different stakeholders, including Supply Division, Gavi, WHO and the Iranian authorities. Day-to-day coordination and follow-up were essential to make sure UNICEF could provide the necessary support to the Government in preparing and submitting the proper documentation needed to take delivery of the vaccines.

These joint efforts taught us a lot. We in the Supply Community were massively engaged. One highlight was UNICEF’s procurement of almost 22 million masks from local suppliers – a historic first for the Country Office. The satisfaction of delivering the goods to children and health workers made it easier to forget all the obstacles we faced during the procurement process. I would never change this moment of joy for anything!


Radu Bradescu, UNICEF Moldova Procurement and Administrative Associate

As 2021 was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest proportion of the services and supplies we procured were used to reinforce the capacity of national health-care institutions. As part of that effort, UNICEF Moldova procured and delivered disinfectant and hygiene and cleaning supplies needed by 8,000 front-line health workers in 1,300 primary health-care institutions.

Another major accomplishment was our contribution to reinforcing the national immunization cold chain. 350 specialized vaccine refrigerators were purchased and distributed to ensure that COVID-19 and other vaccines could be safely stored in health-care facilities in every district and village. So far, more than 1 million Moldovans out of a total population of 2.6 million have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Radu Bradescu, UNICEF Moldova Procurement and Administrative Associate
UNICEF/UNICEF Moldova

Stala Polina Mandal, UNICEF Bangladesh Senior Procurement Associate

Stala Polina Mandal, UNICEF Bangladesh Senior Procurement Associate
UNICEF/UNICEF Bangladesh

The pandemic emergency meant offices were closed. Movement was restricted, and it was very difficult to get work done on time. There were many ad hoc requests. Once, I received a call at midnight from a programme colleague asking if we could do an urgent print job for delivery by 7 am the next day. I immediately called one of our long-term agreement (LTA) suppliers and placed the order. Thankfully, the supplier managed to deliver the work on time.  During the pandemic, we worked non-stop for the betterment of Bangladeshi mothers and children.

Delivering supplies to the Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) Isolation and Treatment Centres for Rohingya refugees suffering from COVID-19 was a special achievement. It was set up from scratch and required everything – from medical equipment to housekeeping supplies.  We had to search the market to set up new LTAs for fabric masks, shoe covers, and many other products. This entailed a tremendous amount of work within a very short time.


Fridah Karimi Mwirigi, UNICEF Iraq Contracts Specialist

My best moment in 2021 was during a monitoring visit to a UNICEF-supported school in Duhok, Northern Iraq. It was a tremendous moment to see the delight in the eyes of the children as they sat at their desks with their blue school bags on their backs inside UNICEF-constructed prefab classrooms. It occurred to me that if UNICEF hadn’t done this for these refugee children, probably no one else would have.

It was a phenomenal year for me, split between a surge mission to the Gaza Strip during the military escalation in May and returning to Iraq to join the COVID-19 pandemic response. One UNICEF priority upon my return was to expand the storage capacity for vaccines in the country. That involved the construction of two vaccine warehouses in Duhok and Ninewa Governorates. Another highlight was helping expand access to remote learning across the country when schools were closed due to COVID-19 lockdowns. As a result of the contracts we developed, 14 million children could access broadcast services providing lessons online.

Fridah Karimi Mwirigi, UNICEF Iraq Contracts Specialist
UNICEF/UNICEF Iraq

Adaman Ouattara, UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire Administrative and Supply Officer

With the pandemic, the biggest challenge we faced in Côte d’Ivoire was making purchases and delivering supplies when flights and ships were becoming increasingly scarce. Delays for both international and local supplies were getting longer. In such difficult times, the order we placed for nearly 1.8 million reusable masks for primary and secondary school students in public schools was really an achievement.

My work involved preparing a detailed tender taking into account the specific needs of each age group and then finalising the purchasing process. I had to follow up on preparing the order within a very tight deadline to ensure that students would receive their masks as quickly as possible since the pandemic was already at a very high level. The challenge was met, and we delivered the masks according to our distribution plan.

Adaman Ouattara, UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire Administrative and Supply Officer
UNICEF/UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire

Nadia Salamou, UNICEF Kyrgyzstan Supply and Logistics Associate

In 2021, UNICEF Kyrgyzstan’s shifted its focus from addressing COVID-19 in hospitals to providing equipment and supplies for the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The local vaccination infrastructure required more warehouses and cold chain equipment. Customs clearance was needed for vaccines as they arrived, and new cold chain equipment had to be transported to vaccination points. On top of my regular supply responsibilities, work-life balance became a big personal issue for me. However, we kept on going, resolving challenges one by one in a joint effort with the Country Office Health team.

Another achievement was the support we gave to Kyrgyzstan’s first-ever National Integrated Micronutrient and Anthropometric Survey, which provided key data for the national nutrition programme. The special supplies needed for the survey required a lot of detailed attention and involved a heavy contracting load. As a result, this major study was carried out successfully in autumn 2021.

Nadia Salamou, UNICEF Kyrgyzstan Supply and Logistics Associate
UNICEF/UNICEF Kyrgyzstan