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Sierra Leone: Facing daily logistical challenges

Logistics is about getting stuff from one location to another at the right time for the right price. Logistics is a crucial tool in facilitating Save the Children’s programmatic work and ensuring donors funds are well spent and reach the right beneficiaries.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 158 on the Human Development Index. While poverty is evident all around me, it is particularly noticeable in its lack of infrastructure, which makes the job of a logistician difficult. Essentially, there is no infrastructure: no electricity (with the exception of a limited supply in Freetown), no water and sanitation system, no waste disposal system, limited communications, and a very poor road network. Sadly, the little infrastructure that was available, was destroyed during the civil war.

For a business or NGO to operate in Sierra Leone, it needs to provide its own facilities. In Save the Children offices we depend on a generator for electricity; water is harnessed through rain catchment in the rainy season and trucked to the office during the dry season; a septic tank provides sanitation for the office and rubbish is burned at the end of each day; large satellite dishes provide access the internet, and we are heavily reliant on mobile phones as there are no land line phones available. And as for the roads, well, we endure long bumpy journeys on a daily basis!

Currently I’m working on setting up a new office in Pujehun, and relocating our old office from Zimmi to Pujehun, enabling us to expand our programmatic work within the region. This presents many challenges, including sourcing supplies to renovate the office.

Pujehun is a small town with terrible road access, and no passing trade. Although there is a market, and a small building shop, availability of goods is extremely limited and expensive. I regularly make a 4-hour return trip to the city of Bo (Sierra Leone’s second city) to load up our Land cruiser with suppliers for the office. While supplies are limited in Pujehun we are fortunate to have fuel available, although sometimes this can also be hard to come by. Fuel is not available in Zimmi, so we have drive 6 hours every week to buy fuel for the generator and vehicles.

During the rainy season the roads can become impassable, and this year the rainy season has lasted for longer than usual. Until recently the road between Zimmi and Pujehun has been closed as the river was too high to run the ferry, so we have been driving via Kenema and Bo, adding an additional 3 hours to our journey. Fortunately the ferry re-opened this week reducing our journey time.

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