Jay Heaver is the Director of Knowledge Sharing and Communications for SCMS (Supply Chain Management System).

On a recent trip to Tanzania, I made several site visits in and around Mwanza, a beautiful city along Lake Victoria, about 1200 km from the capital of Dar es Salaam. My tour guide was Eric Shoo, one of the growing team of supply chain monitoring advisors (SCMAs) hired by SCMS to work in Tanzania’s nine Medical Store Department zonal stores.

Based out of the Medical Stores Department (MSD) in Mwanza, Eric travels around the region training staff in a range of skills, including data gathering and reporting, ordering of supplies from MSD per established timelines, and stock management. He also follows up with local mentors who were trained by SCMS so that when trained staff leaves, new staff will be trained to take over their duties. (As in many PEPFAR-supported countries, staff turnover is high.)After a long day of site visits to the MSD offices in Mwanza, the Sengerema District Council and the Sengerema Designated District Hospital, we ended our tour at the Katunguru Health Center.  The Center is one of a growing number of small health facilities bringing HIV/AIDS care and treatment services closer to patients in Tanzania.  Facilities like these treat the hardest-to-reach patients, and for Tanzania’s HIV/AIDS program to succeed, health centers like Katunguru must carefully track their supply of medicines, report their usage rates to MSD and place quarterly orders with the MSD warehouse.

Eric had hoped to introduce me to two staff members at the center whom SCMS had trained.  However, since we arrived late in the day, the only person still there was Zawadi Makopa, a medical attendant who cheerfully offered to show us around.

Part of Eric’s job is to review the logistics forms that are essential for a fully functioning treatment program: documents with names like the daily dispensing register, stores ledger and quarterly reporting and requisition forms. He was delighted to see that all the forms at Katunguru were up-to-date and filled out correctly.  In the small medicines store room, Zawadi showed us medicines neatly arranged on shelves with hand-lettered labels and bin cards correctly filled out to track daily inventory levels.

After a bit of discussion with Zawadi in Swahili, a smile spread over Eric’s face.  For my benefit, he translated: Zawadi had told Eric that, in July, her supervisor had trained her how to fill out all the forms and manage the store room. Eric had just seen proof that SCMS’s training of mentors was working.  In this corner of Tanzania, the country is moving towards ownership of its HIV/AIDS supply chain. And that will mean all the difference to people who rely on this isolated clinic for their supply of life-saving medicines.

The Supply Chain Management System (www.scms.pfscm.org) is a project of PEPFAR and is administered by USAID.