LAPTOP Scholar Wadhah Hubaishi goes head-to-head with supply chain failure in war-torn Yemen
Interviewed in 2020
How do supply chain systems run smoothly across countries are torn apart by instability, like Yemen? In large part, due to committed supply chain professionals like Wadhah Hubaishi, one of the RHSC’s LAPTOP Scholars.
When Wadhah received a scholarship for a Certification in Humanitarian Supply Chain Management at the Logistics Learning Alliance in 2014, he held the post of Deputy Country Director for the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT in Yemen. When he completed his training, the penny dropped for him. The unique course took him step by step through the planning, design, operation, and coordination of a virtual supply chain system across multiple geographical locations. What he learned had immediate effect on his daily work, contributing to a study mapping the procurement process of contraceptive and reproductive health commodities between the Ministry of Health and its donors. The study had to identify common and recurring bottlenecks in the process, making several recommendations to optimize and shorten the procurement process. In another instance, his studies made it easier for him to supervise and execute a nationwide rollout of a multi-tiered logistics training program that raised the supply chain management capacity for 1,279 Ministry of Health service providers across 9 Yemeni governorates.
His scholarship did not come a day too soon. In 2015, one of the most devastating wars in Yemen’s history erupted. As a direct result of the war, many implementing partners and donors either stopped working in the country or decided to shift their focus and funding from reproductive health support, to more urgent war relief and humanitarian activities.
Reproductive health commodity security has been one of the main problems for the Ministry of Health’s population division. As local government is unable to independently fund the procurement of reproductive health supplies, Yemen is still fully reliant on donor support for commodity supply and related technical support. Wadhah is also familiar with the backlash reproductive health supplies often face in times of humanitarian crises. “Reproductive health always takes a backseat,” he says. “People argue that RH supplies don’t save lives and ask: ‘What about saving our children, or giving food to vulnerable people?’ Not to mention the stigma RH supplies face in general in certain religious communities,” he adds.
People argue that RH supplies don’t save lives and ask: ‘What about saving our children, or giving food to vulnerable people?
“One major takeaway from the LAPTOP-sponsored course was how to use market solutions to deliver humanitarian response; too often humanitarian organizations are trying to reinvent the supply wheel against the odds — and this doesn’t adequately address the on-the-ground realities. This course taught me to take into account the sieges around the main ports of Yemen that reduce the volume of commodities into the country, the fluctuation of fuel prices, and the depreciation of local currency, when transporters and vendors don’t quote in local currency, but in US dollars instead,” he says.
When the Deliver project in Yemen ended in 2015, Wadhah went on to become Operations Director at Mercy Corps, where her oversaw all operations functions in Yemen including Procurement, Logistics, and Warehousing. Wadhah went on to become Deputy Country Director at Relief International, from which he took leave to recently complete his Master’s degree at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, with a Chevening Scholarship.
Wadhah considers himself as having been lucky; he has always had a job, and while many of his fellow Yemenis were paid in the local currency that has depreciated catastrophically, he was always paid in US dollars and has been financially secure. He is eager to give back to his country and is preparing for a time when peace returns to Yemen and he can contribute to its sustainable and long-term development. Supply chain is central in all development contexts and Wadhah expects that whatever direction his career takes him in, he will always be involved in supply chain management in some capacity.
“In a commercial context, the worst impact of an inefficient supply chain is probably financial loss, but when a medical or humanitarian supply chain fails, the consequence can be as dire as the loss of lives,” he says. “It was a sobering realization which gave me a renewed sense of urgency and drive in my work.”