It’s been two weeks since I started my PULSE assignment with CHAI in Panama. Their office is in an area called City of Knowledge, right across the street from the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal. These buildings used to be part of a military base in the 20th century, but have since been transformed into a cluster of schools, universities, technology companies, research facilities and dozens of non-government organizations.
We are surrounded by exuberant nature and wildlife, a truly tropical setting, where it goes from pouring rain to blazing sunshine in a matter of minutes, several times on any given day. As for my new colleagues, I can say they’ve really made me feel at home since day one. Not only are they bright and talented, but they manage to do their work with humility, sense of humor, and kindness.
I have probably learned more about malaria in these few days than in my entire life up to now. Unfamiliar words and acronyms like RDTs, vivax, falciparum, vector control, primaquine, and CHWs have slowly made their way into the “comfort zone” of my brain… and I obviously still have lots more to learn, as this is barely starting.
Part of what I now know is that, back in 2013, several countries in Central America & the Caribbean set a goal for themselves to eliminate malaria by 2020. Steady progress has been made, but there are some remaining challenges to overcome, mainly because the last malaria hot spots are in very rural, hard to reach areas. Over the next few months, I will help assess the current supply chain from the central level all the way down to the local health posts and provide recommendations on ways to optimize forecasting, procurement, warehousing & distribution with these communities in mind.