A pharmacist by training, Yodit Assefa will complete her Master Degree in Public Health this year. Her long-term goal is to contribute to the vision of an HIV-free generation in Ethiopia.

As a procurement specialist with PEPFAR’s SCMS project, I am one of a growing number of women working in supply chain management in Ethiopia.  I manage procurements of HIV/AIDS commodities – including the complex procurement of specialized medical equipment used to treat HIV/AIDS – as well as the vehicles that distribute those commodities.

Well planned, strategic procurement is a smart investment.  Our team helps save money by minimizing costly unplanned and emergency procurements and buying low-value and bulky products locally.

Yodit Assefa (center) and procurement colleagues from PEPFAR’s Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) Photo credit: SCMS

I use my skills to help scale-up Ethiopia’s aggressive HIV/AIDS program.  In just two short years, the number of people on treatment has tripled from 50,000 to over 167,000 and the number of clinics has increased more than fourfold from 170 to 843.

This type of scale-up requires a similar scale-up of supply chain systems.  A little over a year ago, we joined USAID and local partners in a public ceremony to celebrate the arrival of equipment to strengthen warehousing and distribution for public health commodities.  We now have 29 delivery vehicles, seven generators, 10 forklift trucks, 150 refrigerators, nine deep freezers, a 824-cubic meter cold room, racking for 5,400 pallets and 1,320 adjustable shelves for 12 warehouses, including six temporary warehouses leased through SCMS.

A typical day for me starts before sunrise.  I get two kids ready for school – the youngest ready for her nanny – check the car and head for work. We have lots of problems with internet connections in a developing country like Ethiopia, so I am at my desk by 6:30 a.m. to get the best available connection before the lines get busy.  I take information from the client management teams and create quotation requests to send to potential vendors.  I analyze quotations to decide which meet our specifications and offer us the best value.  Best value does not just mean lowest price – I also take into account things like product quality and timeframe for delivery.  On-time delivery is one of our key performance indicators.

After choosing the supplier, I go through a complex process to ensure my purchase orders meet all necessary US government regulations and comply with Ethiopian law.  Finally, I manage the supplier, making sure the products are delivered on time and in the right quantity.  This may not sound like a lot, but remember, each procurement specialist manages around 50 different orders at a time.

Our procurement team is the first SCMS field office to “graduate” to do international procurement—in additional to local procurement—of commodities without any supervision from the SCMS headquarters procurement office.  I’m proud of our graduation, but my greatest satisfaction comes from knowing our work contributes to restoring health to people living with HIV/AIDS. I have seen formerly bedridden patients return to work after receiving antiretroviral drugs. This is what inspired me to join SCMS. I believe helping one person really helps 5.4 people, the average family size in Ethiopia.

PEPFAR’s impact goes beyond saving lives and improving quality of life. It helps national development and economic growth by preventing people in the workforce from dying of AIDS.