I heard an interesting story today from one of our CHAI Office Coordinators as we were driving from the Ministry of Health to the UNDP headquarters. It goes something like this:
A wolf is wandering the forest looking for dinner when he looks up and sees, as if from no where, a big bunch of grapes dangling from a branch. The grapes are green and plum, no doubt burst with sweetness. The wolf spends hours jumping to reach the grapes, but always in vain. The bunch hangs just out of reach. After hours on ends the wolf submits – exhausted and, without grapes, decides to look elsewhere for food. “The grapes,” he decided, “were probably sour anyway.”
The past two days, my first in Liberia, have been pretty discouraging with only moments of inspiration scattered throughout. My surroundings, more or less, are as I expected. Airport and border were elementary, and baggage claim was chaotic but functional. Ironic, that the only international flight which hasn’t lost my luggage was to Liberia – well done, Brussels Air. Because we arrived at night, I could see much during the 40 minute drive from the airport to the apartment in Sincor (a neighborhood in Monrovia). I went with the current Supply Chain Analyst for dinner where the menu was western/Lebanese (there’s a huge Lebanese influence in Monrovia) and we only lost power once. The apartment building is fortified by high walls, barbed wire, and guards; the tenants are mostly Clinton Foundation, Red Cross, and Canadian and Ukrainian helicopter pilots. I fell asleep quickly, after a brief conversation with the Country Director and a short moment of reflection on the porch looking out over the beach.
On Monday morning one of the drivers, drove us to the CHAI headquarters at the Ministry of Health (MoH) where I met the rest of the team and got a pretty preliminary overview of office. During the drive I got my first glances at Monrovia. The city is just as you would imagine a community reemerging from total disaster: the roads are pot hole covered, sewage and trash run through the streets, skeletal frames pose as buildings, street vendors push trinkets that are god-knows-how-old, and the streets are packed (recall the 85% unemployment figure). Any further description is really unnecessary – imagine the worst case scenario and you almost have a visual. From the Ministry we went to the National AIDS Control Program (NACP), where I met the Supply Chain Manager, before heading to UNDP.
The funding for HIV/AIDS test and treatment procurement comes from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Because UNDP is the primary recipient of this grant and NACP is the key implementation partner, I will spend the majority of my time working between UNDP and NACP (with occasional trips to field offices). On this Monday afternoon, I worked through a couple of the forecasting tools that will be essential to my job and continued doing back reading. My orientation was somewhat stunted by the fact that CHAI and UNDP had to attend to a stock out of one of the drugs - but I have no doubt that I'll orient myself quickly come September.
Tuesday morning was refreshing – as mornings tend to be. It was pouring. Apparently the rainy season lasts from May to early October. With a much clearer mission for today, we set out to meet James at NACP and look over a number of the Health Status Reports and Drug Requisitions from a number of the local facilities. I felt this level of involvement helped slightly to clarify my daily activities, but the afternoon session proved far more productive in this regard.
We split the afternoon between two activities: reviewing the Procurement and Supply Chain Management (PSCM) Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Working Plan and reviewing the ARV Quantification Tool.