Logistics: Busy weeks in Bossangoa

How do our teams make sure they have everything they need to save lives? Supply logistician Antoine takes us behind the scenes in the Central African Republic.

The MSF team poses by a small plane

The past weeks were busy in Bossangoa for everybody, including the supply team.

First, our colleagues from the coordination team based in Bangui (the capital of the Central African Republic), visited the project to define the strategy for next year in order to prepare the budget. 

Really nice brainstorming and discussions happened: how to do more to prevent malaria among the community here; how to improve the treatment we offer and how we communicate around sexual violence; how to start new health points in areas that are not yet covered with  basic medical care...

I am the supply logistician here, which means that after we had finalized the strategy for next year, it was my job to work with each department to calculate the impact of these new activities on the forecasted purchase of medicine, cleaning products, food, stationery, fuel, lab equipment... By the end of all this, we were able to transfer these calculations into a budget for next year that we could propose to the coordination team.

While all this was going on, I ran my first inventory of all the medical items we have in stock. 


Colour-coded inventory spreadsheet
Working on the inventory results to analyse potential ruptures

This inventory is done every three to four months to cross-check what we really have in stock. It means we are able to anticipate when medications might run out (we call this a ‘rupture’ in the supply) and plan ahead, preparing the order of medical items that will take between four and six months to arrive in the project.

We spent days going through the shelves of the warehouses counting medicines, laboratory items, and syringes. We’d often find ourselves running to some of the doctors on the team to try to  understand what this type of scissors is made for or what the difference is between two different type of sutures. 

The medical team was really patient explaining what and how the different items are used for (sometimes with a bit too much detail). I think my medical knowledge doubled during this inventory.


Unloading a truck full of MSF supplies
Unloading medications and equipment, some of which went straight from the truck to the hospital

And, as these two activities were taking place, the routine work was still going on: 

  • A container arrived during the weekend full of medications we have long been waiting for: I coordinated the unloading and reception of these items.
  • An oxygen concentrator breaks in the hospital:  it is my job to get the spare parts to repair it. 
  • We are starting to run low in disposable gloves and malaria tests:  I calculated whether we can wait until the container that still needs to clear customs arrives or if we need to find a solution elsewhere (like for example getting a loan from another MSF project). 
  • The Ministry of Health declares a Hepatitis E outbreak in a region not far from here: I have to crosscheck if we have the right medicine to treat it
  • Etc., etc., 

Now that the inventory is closed and the budget is being finalised at headquarters, the days are a bit less stressful. 

I can relax a bit, improve the way we are dealing with the different requests we get and discover a bit more the great work the colleagues from the medical team are achieving here in the Central African Republic.