This is going to be an interesting posting and it’s clearly going to be a busy one. Where to start…
One of the main responsibilities of my team is to gain approval to import medical supplies from our warehouse in Bordeaux for all MSF projects in Uganda. Many medications we import are registered in Uganda but some are not and those require additional supportive paperwork. To gain permission to import medications we submit a documentation package and address any questions that arise. We submit a lot of packets so the team has lots to keep track of to ensure nothing is forgotten. Have one missing document can stop the entire cargo of medical supplies. The good news is we have two Ugandan pharmacists to lead our efforts. They are knowledgeable about the process and persistent to get answers. They are organized and make a good team.
The pharmacy team. Photo: MSF.
For the medical supplies that we need more emergently (due to shortage of our stock), we purchase those locally. This is another big responsibility of the job which mainly falls to me. Our preference is to minimize local purchase because of the numerous steps required to ensure we have validated the manufacturer, but it’s a good option when our cargo from Bordeaux will not arrive before we run out of stock. We have a few items in Yumbe (where we provide medical services to South Sudanese refugees) that are needed to fill the time frame from now until the international order arrives from Bordeaux in August, so I’m up to my ears in that process already. The silver lining is that there is lots of support from Paris, Bordeaux, and technical referents not only for local purchase but also importation.
The pressure is on. If we can’t get our medications into the country, our ability to help people is limited
If you’re wondering what types of medications/medical supplies I am taking about, it’s everything from antibacterial soap and diagnostic tests (for HIV or malaria) to intravenous fluids and ibuprofen. The typical diagnosis in the outpatient departments in Yumbe (where we are treating refugees from South Sudan) are upper / lower respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, diarrhea, and skin infections, so antibiotics are critical to our work (both injectable and oral). Rainy season has begun which means the mosquitos are out and cases of malaria are on the rise, doubling in the past two weeks. The more severe malaria cases get admitted into our in-patient unit where they are treated with antibiotics.
The pressure is on. If we can’t get our medications into the country, our ability to help people is limited. If we can’t find products locally from manufacturers who meet the MSF quality expectations, our ability to help people is limited. There are challenges ahead and I have lots to learn…