VAN veteran turns Ambassador

Clétus Adohinzin

When Clétus Adohinzin was invited to become an Ambassador for the VAN, he stepped into the role with ease. A self-confessed VAN fan and champion from Bénin working with the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) based in Burkina Faso, Dr. Adohinzin is passionate about the member-led data visibility network of procurers, country government staff, and donors, which has, to date, close to 100 member institutions, and more than 320 individual users.

The recently launched VAN Ambassador Initiative has, to date, recruited seven veteran supply chain professionals to actively raise the VAN’s profile. The ideal Ambassador, the initiative’s strategy calls for Ambassadors who are knowledgeable and influential, who speak to the VAN’s best practices and positive impact. Ambassadors would have direct access to key decision-makers and bring their experience and authority to discussions on health systems and supply chain strategies.​

“Checking the boxes with ease.”

A demanding list of requirements, but Dr. Adohinzin checks the boxes with ease. A member of the RHSC’s Executive Committee, and with nearly 20 years’ experience in the field, he was involved in the VAN’s original design and inception. He understands the VAN inside and out, having translated it into French; and he has direct access to 15 health ministers in West Africa. He chairs a regional supply chain forum to keep countries aware of global discussions, and to support the integration of the VAN into a regional vision.

We caught up with him and asked him about his new role as VAN Ambassador.

RHSC: Dr. Adohinzin, why did you accept this role as VAN Ambassador?

CA: I get excited when I talk about the VAN because it represents the future of data-sharing. In the old days, with CARhs¹, we relied heavily on data that wasn’t always completely accurate or current. But the VAN offers live, real-time data, not pdf data sheets and hearsay. I always like to say, “cars (CARhs) took us part of the way, then we switched to the VAN to get to our destination!” The VAN makes our journey to better supply chain visibility more comfortable and efficient.

“Cars (CARhs) took us part of the way, then we switched to the VAN to get to our destination!”

RHSC: What do you contribute to your role as Ambassador?

CA: My full-time job is coordinating two programs² in WAHO. My position gives me direct access to 15 health ministers in ECOWAS Member States. For the VAN to work, we need countries to buy into the data-sharing vision and make their information available on the platform. I am able to speak with health ministries and impress upon them the importance of high-quality data, and how it can make the difference between life and death.

Likewise, when countries approach WAHO with funding requests, I ask for them to support their applications with high-quality data. Potential grantees know that I will consult the VAN to verify funding requests, so they are encouraged to use VAN data as well.

I continually champion the VAN’s usefulness and relevance and am constantly encouraging the community to contribute to the platform as well as benefiting from it.

RHSC: What is especially important when it comes to supporting use of the VAN?

CA: Let me be honest. If you just log into the platform once every six months, you are going to deskill rapidly, your knowledge will become obsolete, and there will come a time when you won’t be able to use the VAN and benefit from its resources. That’s why I insist we organize training for data providers continually. Our Early Warning System annual meeting is designed to build capacity of our member states in supply chain management so they can contribute to the VAN.

“I insist we organize training for data providers continually.”

RHSC: How did you choose family planning and reproductive health as your career path?

CA: My mother has 63 siblings and half-siblings because my maternal grandfather was a polygamist. My own father has six wives with whom he has 16 children — I am one in 16. This is why I think access to contraception is so important. And this is part of the reason I chose to get my PhD in reproductive health.

“I am 1 in 16”

But providing education and services around reproductive health is not enough. There is no point having a program if the products are not there. No Product? No Program! And if the products are there, but they are not well-distributed, there is no point. And if they’re not well stored and the quality is compromised, there is no point. And the products cannot get to you if there is no supply chain visibility, if nobody knows what is happening at the ports and the warehouses. This is why the VAN is so critical.

“No Product? No Program!”

RHSC: How can the VAN’s sustainability be ensured?

CA: This is a $10M question. But I do believe that VAN sustainability is ensured by:

  • Existing and new investors subsidizing the basic offerings of the VAN;
  • Public-private partnerships and other innovative financing options at the global-level; and
  • A membership cooperative where members (or partners on behalf of members) are invited to contribute financial support through a membership fee.

Yes! At the moment, financial support for the VAN comes from a small number of partners — that needs to be improved. We constantly say the VAN is the best data platform we have ever had. So, let’s make sure that country members take ownership of it.

“We say the VAN is the best data platform we’ve ever had. So, let’s make sure countries take ownership of it.”

RHSC: What would you like to see in the future?

CA: I would like to see each and every member of the VAN talk about the platform wherever we are in the world. Let us generate excitement about the VAN so that it can grow beyond reproductive health supplies. And let us look to the day when people come to us and ask whether we can scale up to include HIV drugs and TB drugs. And when that day comes, let us say, “Yes. Come aboard. We can expand. Yes.”

And when that day comes, let us say, “Yes. Come aboard. We can expand. Yes.”

  1. Coordinated Assistance for Reproductive Health Supplies — an information-sharing forum
  2. The Regional Financing Mechanism funded by KFW and the Investment in Youth Engagement and Family Planning for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in the Ecowas Region (IYFP) Project funded by BMGF.

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Official blog of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC)

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