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COVID-19: “We had to adapt very quickly and find new solutions to guarantee the safety of our teams in the field”

Oumy Mbaye has been working as ALIMA’s Supply Manager for the past three years. Based at our headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, Oumy has carried out several missions in the field: in Cameroon, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of the Ebola outbreak response, and in Nigeria and the Central African Republic, on behalf of the logistics department. We spoke with Oumy about her work, including her most recent mission: supporting the logistical operations of the COVID-19 response in Senegal.
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Oumy Mbaye, on his way to Dakar airport to receive respiratory equipment to support the Ministry of Health in Senegal in the fight against VIDC-19. ALIMA is collaborating with the Fann hospital in Dakar to treat confirmed patients while working on infection prevention and control.

Can you explain to us what your work as a logistician consists of and what are the issues at stake? 

My job consists of providing support to projects across ALIMA’s various missions. This support takes the form of orders for medicines, as well as medical and logistical equipment, that we send to the field. Then, I coordinate the shipments with the supplier and forwarding agent, generally from Europe to the final destinations in Africa. Apart from this, during supply operations, I ensure that all ALIMA procedures are properly applied, both in our field missions and at headquarters. This respect for procedures ensures a transparent use of the resources allocated to us by our partners and donors.

In the context of the COVID-19 epidemic, ALIMA received respiratory equipment to support the Ministry of Health’s response in Senegal. What were the different steps prior to the delivery? What were the difficulties or challenges encountered?

Oumy Mbaye, in front of the loading of respiratory equipment, including oxygen concentrators, for the Senegalese Ministry of Health to fight against COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all our normal routines and certainties. Very quickly, borders were closed and several governments issued export restrictions on critical items such as protective equipment and certain drug molecules. These countries, particularly in Europe, are the regular sources of supply for our projects.

We had to adapt very quickly and find new solutions to guarantee the safety of our teams in the field. We have had the opportunity to source directly from respirator manufacturers in China and the USA, for example. But the transportation of this equipment has been and remains a major challenge, due to the disruption of the entire global air network.

What solutions could be put in place to better meet these challenges? What do you need at ALIMA?

In order to face these difficulties, we have been looking for new sources of supply and we have also turned to China. Today, it is a great challenge because it is a new market for ALIMA, new suppliers and new ways of doing business. The great challenge today is to receive quickly to the field the products ordered with all the required quality.

We have also joined forces with other international organisations in order to group together all the supplies and share the few transport solutions available to us.

Do you have any messages you would like to share? 

I would like to say that the ALIMA teams are playing a very important role in the response to COVID-19 in Africa and have mobilized significant resources for this. However, we still need everyone’s support to provide quality support to our missions affected by this pandemic.

ALIMA needs quality human resources to face this epidemic and has launched a recruitment campaign. Hundreds of positions are to be filled: Join us! And if you want to help us get more respiratory equipment in Africa, you can make a donation. Save a life today!

Many thanks to Oumy Mbaye for this interview, as well as to the ALIMA staff in the field, who are fighting against COVID-19 and other diseases, every day, within humanitarian and emergency contexts.

Cover photo: Cora Portais / ALIMA

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