For individuals living with chronic illnesses such as HIV, making sure that the right medicines are accessible at convenient locations is critical to successful treatment and positive health outcomes. Dedicated pharmacists and supply chain professionals like thirty-four-year-old Leena Shailemo are key to making this possible.
Shailemo, who has worked as an information technology professional for the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Global Health Supply Chain Program – Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project in Namibia since 2018, is a key member of the workforce that ensures Namibia’s public health supply chain runs smoothly.
GHSC-PSM‘s mission is to ensure uninterrupted supplies of health commodities in support of U.S. Government-funded public health initiatives around the world. In Namibia, the project provides targeted technical assistance to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) and its Central Medical Stores (CMS) in areas such as procurement, warehousing, and distribution, so that life-saving medications are available to everyone in Namibia who needs them.
The MoHSS uses a software called SYSPRO to manage the supply chain’s inventory at the CMS in Windhoek and at two Regional Medical Stores in the northern towns of Oshakati and Rundu. Shailemo supports her colleagues across the supply chain to use and maintain SYSPRO, allowing them to efficiently plan what medications they need, in what volumes, and at what locations throughout the country.
“IT is the glue that holds everything together because the Central Medical Store is highly computerized. Leena [Shailemo] is integral to the performance and operations of the CMS,” says Seija Nakamhela, Chief Pharmacist at the facility.
Shailemo, who was born in Onhuno on the edge of the Namibian border town Oshikango in the Ohangwena Region, has come a long way from her home village. She vividly remembers her rural life and how she had to cross rivers during flooding season to get to school. “We used to put our school uniforms in a plastic bag and wade through the water to the other side where we put on our clothes,” she recalls.
Shailemo has crossed many rivers to realize her dreams and excel at her profession. She admits that she was a “school hopper” which helped her to build stamina and fostered the ability to adapt to new circumstances and environments. Shailemo feels right at home in the world of unexpected challenges that come with supporting Namibia’s medical supply chain.
Shailemo’s curiosity for computers started when she was young and visited a local school library which had one. The IT officer noticed her enthusiasm and opened the computer up to show her its inner workings. The excitement of that moment planted a seed in Shailemo to go on to study IT at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).
Over the years, Shailemo has helped her colleagues to tackle numerous challenges, duly earning her title as a supply chain logistics hero. In a country where the IT sector is largely dominated by men, she has managed to break the glass ceiling and chart her own path.
“It’s not only my colleagues here at the office and medical stores that need my support,” she explained. Even when work becomes too much, Shailemo has a good reason to keep on going. “I love what I am doing with all my heart and soul. As much as I am behind this computer, I know that what I am actually doing is saving people’s lives.”