This came at exactly the right time

LAPTOP Scholar Nancy Njeru talks about applying her studies to COVID-19 management in Kenya


As a child growing up in Kenya, Nancy Njeru remembers that everyone was talking about HIV/AIDS, whether on the radio and television or at home, around the dinner table. She daydreamed of developing a cure for AIDS, and even back then, medicines were on her mind.

As was caring for the community. A student peer counsellor in high school, she also volunteered her time to support the needy, building rural houses for the homeless by helping fell trees, dig foundations and construct mud walls.

“I was always an academic child, I wanted to change the way things were”

She grew up to become a pharmacist, picking up a fellowship in health economics and a master’s in health systems management along the way. “I was always an academic child,” remembers Dr. Njeru (pharmacists in Kenya use the medical title), “and I wanted to change the way things were.”

Dr. Njeru began her career in the public sector working in a hospital and then went on to gain professional experience across the healthcare sector, working at a national drug-testing laboratory; a national HIV programme; a programme to reduce maternal and perinatal mortality; and a government-run Universal Health Coverage project driving health financing reforms.

It is at the next stage of her career that Dr. Njeru began thinking about supply chains in earnest. When she joined a USAID program supporting Kenya’s 47 county governments in the country’s devolved health system, she was called on to help the counties become self-sufficient, and she realized she needed to understand more about supply chains. She applied for a LAPTOP Scholarship to get her Certification in Humanitarian Logistics, and today she is halfway through the course.

“The scholarship came at exactly the right time,” says Dr. Njeru, “the healthcare system in Kenya was badly affected by COVID-19”. A member of a national COVID-19 technical working group on vaccine procurement and logistics, she found herself reaching for her course notes when called on to support the assessment of supply chain capacity to store and distribute COVID-19 vaccines alongside the country’s routine vaccination programmes.

Using all she had learnt to date, she designed a tool that county governments could use to plan vaccine deployment. This helped them map all their populations and most importantly, identify and plan for different vulnerable and marginalized groups, including prisons and slums. Her LAPTOP scholarship has piqued her interest in humanitarian supply chain management, says Dr. Njeru. This might just be the direction her career will be headed in next.



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