It has been a month since I have arrived Afghanistan, work has been challenging, life has been “interesting.” I guess this is one of the rare MSF missions where we have an entire Technical Unit based on the ground to support technical logistical issues for the mission, and my role this time is quite different to my previous MSF experience.
The Technical Unit is a team of mission technical specialists, including construction, water and sanitation, energy (electrical), biomedical, and mechanics, comprising of both national and international staff. We provide support in these areas for all related activities of all our projects in the mission, in the current four projects located in four different provinces, and also for the upcoming two new projects that will soon commence.
As the Construction Specialist, my support to the teams is much more backstage this time, and although I really missed being hands-on in the field, this new role brings about a lot of new challenges in being more of a managing position, balancing between the direction set by the coordination, and practical construction issues on the sites.
We are on our way to kick off our first two major constructions of the year in two different projects, the ER (Emergency Room) Extension in Boost Hospital of Helmand to facilitate a better patient flow, and the Logistics Store in the MSF Trauma Center of Kunduz, to provide a better workshop for carpentry, biomedical and electrical works, as well as to increase the storage capacity as a warehouse for non-medical items.
Construction itself is a very environment-dependent field: the heavy raining season, the unbelievably cold winters, the availability and quality of local construction materials, skills of local construction methods, these all affect the available time we have to build and the available quality we can achieve – which, may also be different in different provinces. Although different to how it is back home, I am so far quite impressed by the standard of structures here given the context of the society.
The coming months shall be the hardcore construction months, with much more to come, both medical and non-medical structures. Looking forward to my next visits to the fields, the see the buildings coming up!