Emergency Planning. That could be the title of just about every blog I write in the next year, I think. Almost everything I am doing is planning ahead for emergencies. Some more likely to occur than others. It rained heavily today. I was woken at 6:15 by the rain pounding the tin roof like a machine gun. The rain might please our neighbours in Niger Republic to the north – they have been suffering a dry spell. But rain here also increases the risk of cholera.
The planning I am doing at the moment is organizing our warehouse. Compared to where I’ve worked before, the number of different items we stock is not that high. But the quantity of some items is very high. We moved an articulated truck, mostly laden with Plumpynut from the office to the warehouse at the weekend. Plumpynut is a peanut based therapeutic food that is used to treat malnutrition. I learned today that our warehouse has about half a million portions. They come in boxes of 150 that weigh about 15 kilos each. I thought I was good, carrying 2 at a time until a helper turned up and lifted 3 at a time all day long in the heat.
We also have quite a stock of auto-disabling syringes. There are the type used in a vaccination campaign. The warehouse has exactly 393,877 of them. Plus whatever extra we just carried in. I’ve not counted them yet.
Getting our stock levels right for these items is critical. Our medics will call for them one day and we need to know exactly how many we have and everything needs to be ready to go. We also have lower quantities of technical items. A lot of what we stock isn’t items, but kits. MSF is great at this. Our logistical people at HQ have learned from the countless emergencies in the past and put together everything you might need for a particular scenario. So the water pump comes with all the gaskets, tools, spare parts, instruction manual, jerry can, hose and oil. The bladder tanks come with shovel, pickaxe, valves, boundary tape and repair kit. We spent a lot of today making sure kits that have been used in the past have all the accessories.
The power at the warehouse is reliable. It reliably stops every day at 12 noon. So we have a generator. Thankfully, our capital management team is not in the national capital, right next to us. So we benefit from them being nearby by using their resources. They have a guy who fuels and services the generator. That’s one less thing for me to worry about. I’m used to being the only technical person in the region, so it’s nice to have support close by.
That also means I can call upon their assistance to fix things at our locations. But sometimes I prefer to fix things myself. Every time I fix something I improve my technical skills. Yesterday, I cemented all the holes in our house walls. Hopefully, that will reduce the mosquito and mouse situation. I only mixed cement for the first time this year on a MSF course, so it was good to get the skills into practice.
This evenings’ task was to put a seat on the toilet in the house. I’d been putting it off until I could find a pair of surgical gloves. The bolts (which were the only remaining part of the previous seat) weren’t looking so clean. So trying to put on the gloves with my hands still wet was the first mistake. Picking up gloves made for the hands of a pixie was the second mistake. I ended up with the glove palm stretched over my whole hands with the tiny fingers not fitting on to my sausage fingers.
Then I realized that the new seat had no bolts in the pack. I had to use the horrible plastic bolts from the old seat. But the heads on them were too wide. So I had to file them down with a metal file. Which only just clogged up with plastic, as I used it. Sweating in the heat I was worried I would rip through the gloves and unleash an ecosystem of bacteria. I eventually filed down the bolt and wished I had left the tasks to the support team. I left the tools in the bathroom floor planning to soap and shower them tomorrow.
I had spent about an hour of my first weekend trying to buy a solid plastic or ceramic seat, everyone I saw was flimsy plastic. “I was looking for a stronger one” I explained to the salesmen in every shop. “But this one is stronger” each of them told me, more confidently and with a wider smile each time. I hope it lasts until at least my end of mission.