You might ask what the picture here is. It is catfish. One of my fellow Pulse Volunteers here in Nigeria, Nikki, mentioned in her one of her posts, a tub containing catfish. You might remember the picture (you should look it up if you don’t). Well the picture attached is what happens to it after it is removed from the tub.
Earlier this week, as a team building event and a welcome to some visitors to CHAI Nigeria we had a fish dinner. It was all strangely familiar and different simultaneously. My team in GMS Rockville has had team building meals before and we’ve played games after. But we have never sat outside on a nice night and eaten catfish from foil. They brought up a large pile of something wrapped in foil. Handed out one per table, and then some utensils. The server then just cut it open and the smell of a lot of spices wafted up with the steam. Bon appetite. The restaurant was located in a park with multiple bars and some places to play tennis, soccer, basketball. The game of Mafia after words was familiar. It was quiet and loud and fun. It was a nice way to bond with my fellow CHAI peeps and I’ve made some new friends among them now I think; at least amongst my fellow Mafioso.
So let me talk about some of the work that CHAI is involved in, that I will be involved in. One of the projects I will be supporting is the Cold Chain Logistics in Nigeria. The path of the vaccine in Nigeria is as follows: Nigeria buys vaccines from the UNICEF supply division. Once the National government receives the vaccines, it then distributes them to the 6 Governmental Zones. From the Zones the vaccines move to the States. Then the vaccines move to LGAs (Local Governmental Areas). The LGAs then send the vaccines to individual health clinics that then finally dispense the vaccines to the patient. Each step along the way requires proper storage conditions and handling. Cold chain logistics encompasses all the cold chambers in every facility that the vaccines are held, temperature monitoring, the transportation, the electricity needed to run the chambers, the maintenance needed to keep things running, the handling of the vaccines and the inventory. This is not a small job and multiple public and private entities are involved to keep it all going. CHAI’s part in this mission to provide vaccines to all who need it is to support the government and to help them improve their processes. CHAI helps with inventory, temperature monitoring, maintenance, and capacity building. They provide input on the type of information to be gathered as well as relaying the gathered information to ensure that the vaccines are stored and handled correctly. They also help to build knowledge and expertise within the program. I know I personally never thought of what goes into children getting vaccinations. It’s a lot.
This is a complex process with many spinning wheels and people learning new things all the time. As with all things, you don’t really know what the challenges will be until you get there and try to implement it. For example, there was a discussion where people had learned the hard way that a refrigerated truck is not as good as a regular truck that carries vaccines in sturdy cold boxes. Apparently, the rough roads in most parts of Nigeria damage the refrigeration unit tech while cold boxes are simple technologies that don’t break.
The people I have met, working on these projects, have been so committed and knowledgeable about all the complex parts of this project. It is quite intimidating. It is also inspiring me to look forward to the time that I can be one of them; even if only for a short time.