Home game for the new Coordinator
Less than a year after joining the Logistics Sector, Muhsin was running the operation in Nigeria. In this country where he grew up, he worked for an NGO for five years where he occupied many different roles before joining the team. This experience made him very versatile and adaptable in a complex humanitarian environment, a desirable quality in any logistician. On our blog, he tells us about his priorities and expectations in the new position, and about how he and the Logistics Sector team adapted to the COVID-19 health crisis and its aftermath.
How have your background and your career path prepared you for this new mission?
Although my studies weren’t linked to humanitarian work or logistics, these fields have been a passion from the beginning. Humanitarian logistics impact people’s lives on a large scale and being part of this system enables you do things you would never be able to accomplish as an individual.
I started my career with eHealth Africa, an NGO focusing on Northwest Nigeria, and stayed there for five years occupying a wide range of positions. Not all were linked to logistics but all helped me grow and prepared me for the next role. In 2017, I started working on WFP projects. We were then providing our services in the Kano warehouse, a vital point of passage and the second largest WFP storage hub in the country after Maiduguri. I was making sure food operations were running smoothly and standards were being met. I enjoyed the work and knowing that this food was heading to the most vulnerable populations in Northeast Nigeria gave me a sense of fulfilment. After eHealth Africa became a service provider for the Logistics Sector, I also took on the responsibility of the Rann and Ngala WFP warehouses. It was my first time working in the Northeast, a complex, challenging environment due to the security situation. Having been on the other side, knowing in detail what issues service providers faced, prepared me for the role I have now. I also grew up in this country. I understand the local context, the language, have contacts on the ground… In 2019, I finally joined the Logistics Sector, first as Roving Logistics Officer, and now as Logistics Sector Coordinator.
How has COVID-19 impacted your work?
Northeast Nigeria is a challenging area to work in and COVID-19 exacerbated existing difficulties. Our priority now is to maintain the services we have set up both over previous years and to respond to needs triggered by COVID-19. This means ensuring operational continuity while complying with WHO guidelines so that organisations supporting populations in the deep field continue to be served.
Restrictions on flights, and on our general ability to travel to the field to monitor our warehouses have also had an effect on our operation but we rely on our inventory management tool RITA to monitor and track cargo and try and visit our sites as much as we can.
At the warehouse in Banki in December 2019 and training staff on storing cargo and inventory work. Photo: INTERSOS
What are your priorities today in Nigeria as Logistics Sector Coordinator?
With the outbreak of COVID-19, new needs have risen. For instance, to import personal protective equipment for humanitarian personnel, we need to verify specific procedures, what the customs processes are, etc. Considering how fast the situation is evolving we have to remain agile and stay on top of emerging needs and understand how to work with the various task forces that have been set up. Recently we coordinated the arrival of a cargo plane in Maiduguri filled with material for shelters and isolation centres. As the fight against COVID-19 continues, the need for storage and partner support is increasing in Borno and Yobe, as more and more COVID-19 related items pour into the country. We link organisations together to meet the needs, some have storage capacity and temperature-controlled warehouses, others are procuring medication and need this temperature-controlled storage. We need to make sure they can use each other’s services, and we’re doing this coordination work more than ever.
In the field, there is always a different issue to solve and it often requires that you think outside of the box: setting up a new structure that UNHCR received or working different aspects of an issue in order to deliver. It’s what keeps me going because it’s never repetitive, every day brings something new.
How is your team organised now?
Before the outbreak we worked in the same office, it was easy to communicate with each other, share challenges. Now everyone is spread out: working from home or from guesthouses, with a disparate access to the internet and other services. But this new way of working has nudged us to use lots of tools we never explored before and we are now all on the same page and stay coordinated and up to speed.
What are your expectations for this mission?
I still have a lot to learn and continue to discover things through the diversity of scenarios that any single day offers. I have worked in Nigeria during my entire career and one day I hope I can take this consolidated experience and use it in a different operation elsewhere. I know I have grown from this and, hopefully, at the end of this mission I will be even more proficient and professional at what I do and can replicate this elsewhere.
To learn more about the Logistics Sector activities in Nigeria, visit our dedicated page here.