I was delighted to accompany four of the lovely People's Postcode Lottery team, from the Edinburgh and German offices, for a day in Nairobi this summer.
Logistics are at the very heart of MSF, making our humanitarian work possible
This day formed part of a wider staff reward trip to Kenya, where the team visited three of their charity partners’ projects.
Discovering a new side to Nairobi
This was my fourth work trip to Kenya, however, it was the first time I'd spent any real time in Nairobi.
For me, Nairobi has always been a place of transit, somewhere I landed late before heading east or west early the following morning, but I really enjoyed spending a week there this time.
The sights and smells in different pockets of the city, the hustle and bustle of the markets, the friendliness of everyone we met (and getting my fill of ugali and sukuma wiki – a type of maize porridge with local greens and two of my favourite Kenyan staples).
We started our day with the People's Postcode Lottery team – Claire, Lindsey, Grant and Robert – being greeted by Gautam, MSF’s country representative for Somalia and Somaliland.
His office of 62 people in Nairobi forms the remote coordination base for our operations in the neighbouring country.
We spent time talking about the geography and demography of Somalia, including ongoing conflicts and political tensions.
It was an insightful presentation and an opportunity to understand the complexities of a clan-based society in a country that has been at war since 1991.
MSF's history in Somalia
MSF started working in Somalia in 1983 and our presence was relatively consistent until a series of violent attacks on our staff forced us to withdraw in 2013.
In May 2017, MSF returned to Somalia to provide much needed medical care, with local staff running projects on the ground and the office in Nairobi providing remote management and support.
In the first half of 2019, MSF provided a total of 24,412 out-patient consultations in Somalia, across Mudug region, Baidoa town and Jubaland State.
The presentation by Gautam helped to put into context our proceeding visit to the Somalia warehouse in central Nairobi.
Once there, warehouse supervisor Mkala explained the logistics of the warehouse, including procurement, storage, stock management, distribution and customs.
We were also able to see some of the types of medical and non-medical supplies normally stocked and distributed from there, such as measles kits and therapeutic food.
What was particularly interesting was the section dedicated to emergency preparedness, which included sets of cholera treatment beds ready to send to Somalia immediately in the event of a cholera outbreak.
From the Somalia warehouse, we negotiated our way through the traffic to the Kenya Logbase, where we spent the rest of the day.
After a hearty lunch (including plenty of ugali!) and an opportunity for the People's Postcode Lottery and Logbase teams to get to know each other, there was a presentation by Misha, the logistics coordinator.
This focused on how the Logbase provides logistics, supplies and administrative support to MSF operations in the region, including Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Central African Republic, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
The presentation concluded with a tour of the adjoining warehouse, which allows MSF to deliver critical supplies to Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia in a cost-effective and efficient way.
This warehouse includes a cold chain supply, where vital medicines can be stored, shipped and kept at the appropriate temperature during transit for approximately 72 hours.
Logistics in action
It was fantastic to spend the day with the team from People's Postcode Lottery learning about MSF logistics in action, and we had some lovely feedback from them, including “the team were great, engaging and provided a great insight into what MSF does” and “the warehouse visits were great and really interesting”.
As People's Postcode Lottery has primarily provided MSF with unrestricted funding, the trip was an opportunity to demonstrate how this support enables our teams to respond to emergencies without delay.
It means we can have supplies and the logistics chain on standby, and ready to deploy within hours of an emergency, be it a natural disaster, emergency or epidemic.
The adventure continues
In the days that followed our visit, I was also able to spend time visiting MSF projects in Mathare and Kiambu, including seeing some of the supplies from the warehouses in use at projects.
Having visited MSF Supply’s huge warehouse in Brussels, the warehouses in Nairobi then the projects where these supplies are used, helped connect together all the pieces of MSF’s very complex and incredibly efficient logistical operations.
Logistics are at the very heart of MSF, making our humanitarian work possible, and it was a privilege to be able to show this in action to the People's Postcode Lottery team.