At one point in a project, you wake up and realize that time is running out! That happened to me last week and although I’m not sure where the past 3 months have gone, we have started to count by weeks until the closure and not months!
It is Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in my office working on a few emails and catching up on blog entries. I’m also staring at a calendar that I presented to the expat team yesterday to help coordinate the coming weeks. Written on a flip chart, the calendar includes expat evaluation and end-of-mission dates, a final donation schedule and our project closure party. For me, it also drives home the point that our closure date – May 31st 2010 – is not so far away anymore.
Our team has been busy with the thousands of tiny details that need to be taken care of before we leave. Additional trainings for the Ministry of Health staff. Another round of visits to village authorities. Sorting out administrative details for final payments. Stock counts, inventory list updates and discharge of liability forms.
This list is in a spreadsheet that is 6 pages long!
On the medical side, we have also been scaling back our operations. The outreach team finished their final round of supervision visits to the health centers. Our mental health councilors have stopped taking on new patients and are busy trying to close their existing files. Since the Ministry of Health is not able to take over our feeding center, we have started to incorporate any new malnourished children into the pediatrics ward of the hospital.
As pat of the handover, we will also make a donation that will, in theory, allow operations to continue for 3 months after our departure. While this certainly includes a 3-month supply of drugs, it also includes everything from pens to fuel for lanterns to medical forms. Everything must be calculated, compared to current stocks, ordered, transported, sorted and prepared before it can be delivered to its final destination.
While all of this work is part of the regular activities that we do on a monthly basis, you have to multiply the amount (and volume!) by three and, at the same time, eliminate the buffer stock that normally covers for emergency needs or sudden changes in consumption.
We will also donate most of the items currently found in the health structures. If MSF needs these articles to run a hospital, certainly the Ministry of Health will need these items after our departure! These inventory lists need to be reviewed, converted into an official donation form and then presented to the Ministry of Health in an official ceremony.
…what about the rest?
We also have a fully functioning office, a garage and a fleet of 6 land cruisers, various storerooms, expat living quarters, etc., etc.! These are items needed by MSF to run a project, but not to run the hospital itself. As you can imagine, this is a pretty long and varied list.
To help you get an idea of the magnitude of these ‘details’, I will go through the contents of my small office and explain the plan for each item:
- My wooden desk and chair will be returned to the Sisters. It was one of the items listed on the original contract we signed when we rented the school from them and promptly converted it into an office.
- The small printer will be donated to the ministry of health, as per our Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2009.
- My laptop will be returned to LBB, kept as a backup or sent to one of the other operational projects in Katanga.
- A small, poorly constructed cabinet will be added to what our national staff call a “Tambula”. In essence, this is a lottery in which our staff ‘draw’ items for which we cannot find another suitable home. Everything from old car batteries to used mattresses to broken TVs. It may seem like junk, but in this resource poor setting the batteries will be hooked up to solar panels, you can’t even buy a mattress and the TV will certainly be fixed and used as the local version of a cinema. The empty powdered milk tin I use to hold my pens, my paper trays and the curtains will also be added!
- The two wooden chairs where my visitors sit will be sent to Shamwana just before we close, along with the power bar and the garbage can.
- The 2 dozen binders will have to be emptied, with some documents being sent to LBB and others to the waste zone to be burnt.
…and that is just my office! Extrapolate for an entire base, a fully functional hospital and 7 supported and fully stocked rural health centers and you start to get some pretty big lists. The logistics team has been busy making these lists and then trying to find homes for each and every item. Not small task, for sure!