Voices: Improving the health of communities one truckload at a time

“Each place that I work in has so much history and culture to explore and I am lucky enough to enjoy it all, while helping improve the health of local communities.” - Nang Shri Seng Lao, UNOPS Logistics Officer, Myanmar.

I graduated from college as a Civil Engineer and have focused my efforts on humanitarian and development work ever since.  As a proud Myanmar woman I have enjoyed being a part of the United Nations family in my country for almost 15 years.  Working for agencies like the United Nations Development Programme, World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and now UNOPS, I feel like I have helped to improve the lives of people in this beautiful land, which makes me happy.

It has been very interesting to see the differences between organizations like WFP and UNICEF that provide humanitarian aid and emergency response and UNOPS, which works with multiple stakeholders to implement development projects without the same time constraints.

UNOPS is the Principal Recipient of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Myanmar, which supports the Regional Artemisinin-resistance Initiative in five countries of the Greater Mekong sub‐region: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. I am the Logistics Officer for this programme, which means that I help manage the delivery of essential medicines and equipment needed to fight these diseases. Managing logistics involves dealing with a whole range of stakeholders, from government officials and sub-recipients to international suppliers and freight forwarders.

I love travelling around Myanmar and the region, collaborating with partners and meeting beneficiaries. Each place that I work in has so much history and culture to explore, and I am lucky enough to enjoy it all, while helping improve the health of local communities. 

Ensuring the safe delivery of essential supplies on schedule is a complex combination of stages.  For instance, some medications need an unbroken cold chain to maintain their quality. If cooling systems fail during transit we have to launch an investigation into the issue, and collaborate with suppliers to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again. The medications themselves would then be stored in warehouses until quality assurance tests are passed before distribution is possible.

We sometimes deal with customs-related delays at a country's point-of-entry, which can last up to several weeks at a time.  If we are moving delicate cargo or goods that are classified as dangerous, such as pesticides, we need to arrange for them to be moved from the ports and stored safely until clearances are received.

The nature of my work is so dependent on outside factors that it is hard to predict what a day will look like.  We don't always have the luxury of walking out of the office at 5:00 pm because peoples' lives depend on the timely delivery of essential supplies, but the efforts are well worth it.