Chad: A typical day
What's a 'normal' day like when you're working with Doctors Without Borders / MSF? Nurse Liza is is Am Timan, Chad, and shares hers...
Several people have asked me to describe a typical day here. It’s a little difficult for a few reasons: first I’m still in the discovery phase of what my job is like, and then I go to different places on different days, so it’s complicated. But I’ll try.
Take a Monday, for example. My alarm-clock rings at 6.15am, it’s already daytime outside. I get dressed/eat/brush my teeth and all that, take my malaria prophylaxis and jump in the truck to go to the hospital.
We start with the meeting for all MSF-ers. This means every medical - hospital-based and outreach team, logistics, HR, finance, the water and sanitation people and the project coordinator, who’s everyone’s boss. We run through a summary of the previous week on every branch of activity, and a point on security. It might seem dull, but it’s very useful and necessary, so that everyone’s aware of what the others are doing.
My team and I take all the medicine needed for the week for the health centre we’re going to help that day. This means checking the order is right, counting the stock, signing forms. We also take the emergency briefcase (a standard briefcase with medical stuff you might need in case of emergency, like essential medicines, sterile gloves, respiration bag…) and two cool boxes with medication and vaccines that the centres don’t have because they don’t have electricity, and some drugs need to be kept cool. And then it’s departure time.
Waiting rug at Ablelaye Health Centre. Photo: Liza Courtois / MSF.
On arrival we used to shake hands with everyone (not so much now, because of a cholera outbreak that I’ll speak of at a later time) and then everyone goes where they should. The midwives go midwifing, the nutrition assistant assists with nutrition, the pharmacist heads to the pharmacy and the nurse start nursing.
Me, I go from one department to the other, checking that the tools are used correctly (the monitoring slips, the registers, etc), that auscultations techniques are accurate (that's when you listen to the internal sounds of the body, most often with a stethoscope), that medical equipment is clean. In short: I’m supervising.
I supervise an MSF team who are training local health personnel. That’s where it’s hard because non-MSF personnel don’t speak French. We manage. I’m front-rowing lots and lots of Arabic conversations, trying to distinguish one word from the other.

Image shows a woman in a bright pink dress cradling a crying newborn

The first baby I watched being delivered. Photo: Liza Courtois / MSF.
At 2.30 pm, we leave. Centres are at maximum 30 km from the base, but there’s no road so it can take some time. 
On arrival we put everything back in its place, my team goes home and I go see the other Chadian supervisor in the computer room. They’re in-putting the data they collected today from the other centres in Am Timan (how many kids in the nutrition program, how many new cases, how many deaths, how many paracetamol were given, how many malaria tests, etc). I check everything’s right, check if we need to order stuff for them, we exchange info if needed and he/she goes home.
I look at my e-mails, answer some, send some if needed.
Then I go home to eat, because nine hours of work without eating is enough. Sometimes I keep working at home if needed. If not, I read (for work and not for work), I write (this blog and other stuff), I have a chat with international staff colleagues. I do a bit of sport (someone amazing gave me a jump rope, it’s fantastic) and shower (our water has no heating system, at night for now it’s only 20-25 degrees Celsius so in the morning it’s too cold). Lastly I check I don’t have any crickets, beetles, mice, acid bugs or other wonderful things on me (in my hair, mostly, when it happens) and / or in my tukul and I go under my mosquito net.
There you go, my routine.