It's Saturday morning, but that doesn't mean it's a sleep-in kind of day. In this 'regular project' (as opposed to an 'emergency project'), we have fixed working hours, and we even respect them from time to time. That means the staff work Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 4:30pm. Usually.
But next week is our second distribution of the seasonal malaria chemoprophylaxis (SMC), in other words drugs to prevent malaria, and this time we're raising the stakes by adding MSF's first SMC distribution/vaccination campaign combination. The first SMC distribution went smoothly, with excellent statistical (and anecdotal!) success (we surpassed the number of kids treated in the first distribution in 2013). Now we're adding on a vaccination section to 31 of the 117 distribution in Moissal and Bouna districts in Southern Chad. A vaccination section means more staff, more training, and the daunting concept of "cold chain."
A cold chain means we have to keep temperature-sensitive vaccines between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius for the four days of preparation and distribution, in ambient temperatures reaching well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
We will do this with logistician's magic, but to hint at the equipment behind the curtain, it's a lot of calculating temperature decay in various ambient temperatures, looking up the freezing capacity of our equipment and their stockage volumes, and creating and filling out spreadsheets. Actually, the spreadsheets do most of the work (MSF has developed a lot of nifty electronic spreadsheets with the calculations already built-in). Then it's a lot of hefty, space-age coolers (nimbly named RCW25, I'm not kidding). You have to use all eight syllables every time you mention them) and icepacks. Mix it together, add the requisite logistician-magicians and 11 land cruisers, and you get a passive cold chain in seven rural health centers for four days.
This all means that Saturday has become a work day. There are several different types of kits to prepare, and they will be all packaged into carefully-labeled, cheerfully-colored plastic sacks. There are Rapid-Malaria-Test kits, Malaria Agent kits, Logistics kits, Vaccination kits, Anaphylactic Shock kits and SMC-Distribution kits. I walk into the warehouse compound to find the pharmacy (the medical equivalent of the logistical side of operations) hard at work under the spreading shade of the large mango tree. They're a department of two, working behind the scenes (another support department), but here they have hired daily workers to prepare the scores of kits to be ready for Tuesday's 7am departure.