The “Buddy System” for Sustainable Supply Chain Management

January 21st, 2021 | Story


Moono Chilinda is a biomedical technologist from the Chama district in Muchinga province, Zambia. Moono owes his start in the Electronic Logistics Management Information System (eLMIS) to a Ministry of Health (MOH) apprenticeship dubbed the “buddy system” by the USAID Electronic Supply Chain MIS (eSCMIS) project.

Following the launch of the eLMIS Facility Edition (FE) in 2016, Moono began receiving eLMIS mentoring from his supervisors. Today, Moono is part of a growing group of eLMIS Superusers able to deploy and migrate the system, orient MOH staff to eLMIS, provide them with technical support, and, if the newcomers are lucky, mentor them to become Superusers themselves. The buddy system is a form of skills transfer that the USAID eSCMIS project uses to build capacity among MOH staff across Zambia. Most recently, the buddy system has enabled the project to expand and sustain its work through the many restrictions accompanying COVID-19.

eSCMIS is a USAID-funded project implemented by John Snow Health Zambia Limited (JSH), a JSI affiliate. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH), Medical Stores Limited (MSL), the Churches Association of Zambia (CHAZ), and other supply chain partners, eSCMIS is working to transform eLMIS into a sustainable, next-generation system that is wholly owned, implemented, and maintained by the government of Zambia. The eventual objective is a more efficient and sustainable supply chain, a more effective health system, and better health outcomes.

Through the buddy system, the project’s eLMIS Superusers provide less experienced MOH staff with technical support and identify new health facilities for future eLMIS deployment. “I’ve always had a keen interest in information technology,” reflects Moono. “I fully embraced eLMIS because of how efficient and timely it has made my work. With training from my supervisors, I began building my skills. I never imagined I’d become one of the first points of contact in both Eastern and Muchinga provinces on-eLMIS related queries, or that one day I’d be leading migrations or conducting virtual trainings to my MOH colleagues through a pandemic.”

In its first year of operation, eSCMIS trained 40 eLMIS Superusers to support and mentor other MOH staff and to deploy new versions of eLMIS. With support from the Superusers, 151 health facilities have migrated from eLMIS FE version 3.8 to 4.1.0. “We envision having at least on average two eLMIS Superusers in each district by the end of the project life,” reports Daison Machinyise, eSCMIS’s Systems Implementation and Support Manager. “COVID-19 really threw us in the deep end, but. . . we’ve managed to maintain reporting rates during the onset of COVID-19 till present, even with eSCMIS project staff not being able to travel to provinces for technical support. We can clearly see the Ministry’s commitment to eLMIS.”

The project design includes transferring full leadership of eLMIS to the government of Zambia by 2023, with project staff providing technical support for an additional two years. Building the capacity of MOH staff to implement and maintain eLMIS, including through the buddy system, is a key strategy for achieving this objective.

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