"I work around the clock" : A day in the life of an MSF project coordinator
Sergio is working for MSF in Boga, in the northeast of Democratic Republic of Congo. MSF supports the regional hospital and health centres there, and Sergio ensures that the project runs safely and smoothly, giving women a safe place to give birth, and local people access to the healthcare they need. In his latest blog post, he takes us through a typical day, from morning mocha to midnight emergency.
As project coordinator in Boga I am responsible for the entire project. I manage the security situation, the human resources of the project and I oversee the logistics. I work closely with the medical team leader in order to better understand and address the health needs of the people living in our project area. I am also available 24/7 by radio and phone. In other words, I work around the clock.
6:00am On a usual weekday, I wake up at around this time. I slowly drag myself out of bed to make my way to the kitchen to make coffee - an Italian mocha that some member of the international staff before my time generously left for future teams. That gets me up. After coffee, I get ready for work.
Photo: Sergio Scro / MSF
7:30am I arrive at the office, chat with the staff, check my emails and discuss the latest information with my assistant.
8:00am Meeting with the project’s security committee for an update on the situation in the last 24 hours, including the political situation and general information about Boga.
8:15am I call my local contacts for additional information about the security situation in the area surrounding Boga, to check if all is good so that I can validate the movements of the medical teams to those places. Usually the medical teams travel on a daily basis to a healthcare centre or health post supported by MSF outside Boga city centre.
MSF supports three healthcare centres, the local hospital and 12 health posts in the greater Boga area. Movements by car, motorbikes or on foot are undertaken on a daily basis and my task is to check that the quality of the roads is good enough and that no security threats are waiting for us.
9:00 am to 12:30pm The rest of the morning I spend it in either staff meetings, checking emails, or filling out our weekly security logbook, where I register all the security information, incidents and even rumours that I collect through my contacts.
Once the medical teams arrive in the field I check on them either by phone, radio or satellite phone, to make sure that they all arrived safely and that the activities are going smoothly.
On a weekly basis, I usually take the time to meet our local partners in the area, which include the head of the military, the police, religious leaders, members of Boga civil society and also rebel groups if necessary.
12:30pm to 1:30pm Lunch break! I usually walk back to our living quarters with some of my colleagues to have a break, some food and a little rest. It usually gets warmer during this time of the day, so a short rest is well needed and deserved.
1:30pm The afternoon at the office is usually spent in meetings, planning visits from specialists to our project and filling gaps.
As a field coordinator, I am ultimately responsible for the project’s activities, the security of the teams, the budget, human resources and I oversee the logistics. If our administrator is on leave or sick, I jump in. If our logistics manager is away, I fill his spot. In other words, being a project coordinator is multi-tasking and being ready to jump in when needed.
Photo: Sergio Scro / MSF
6:00pm I usually leave the office. Sometimes if needed, I stay a bit longer. As I work in a “regular” project, we face few emergency situations concerning security or the possibility of outbreaks. This makes it easier to leave the office at a decent time.
The evening is spent just chilling with the other international staff living at the base. Just enjoying some dinner, and at weekends we have some drinks and late chats in the tukul or by our terrace overlooking the Rwenzori mountain range.
The views in Boga are just breathtaking. Despite the curfews and the security rules that don’t allow us to stay out late and go for excursions to nearby areas, we are lucky enough to enjoy some great views from our compound.
Photo: Sergio Scro / MSF
10pm Usually the time when my eyes start closing and I have to retire to my room to get a good sleep. I do the last security checks and make the last phone calls and then I am off to bed.
Often, my sleep is broken in the middle of the night by the VHF radio. In the case of healthcare emergencies I am woken at night by someone at the hospital or our medical team leader asking me if they can go pick up a woman who has a complicated pregnancy and is in urgent need of a caesarean section. My job is to check that the road is in a good condition so that our teams can reach the patient’s village and that there are no threats.
Lately the situation on the roads has been fairly good. This allows me to greenlight some movements of cars and MSF staff even at night, in order to go and provide support to people in distress and in immediate need of healthcare.