Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Me and CSB...

I sometimes feel like I’m living one of those fourth grade math word problems. You know the kind: if a train leaves Detroit going 40mph and another train leaves New York going 60mph which will get to Paris first?

Except my math problems go something like this: If two health staff take two weeks off, and one nutrition nurse takes three weeks off, and you have to keep four people in the main compound and two people in the sub-base for security, do you have enough people to keep the programme running until Christmas?

Or: WFP delivers 1050 bags of CSB (Corn-Soya Blend – used in nutrition programmes) unexpectantly because their logistics and planning are worse than UNICEF’s and you can’t store them in the WFP warehouse because their guards are a bunch of thieves and MSF says you can store 700 in one of their empty warehouses and 300 in another but the second warehouse has to be empty by Tuesday where are you going to put the CSB? Lucky for you the tribes nearby have stopped fighting so you can move 533 to another location to pre-position for when more fighting will, hopefully, stop and you can deliver it out to the mobile centres and you find two tents that you can set up in your own compound to house about 450 bags. So, how many bags will be left at the MSF warehouse and how many 2 hour trips will it take you to get the 533 bags to the other location remembering that you only have 11 barrels of petrol to last you until January and can only take 35 bags per trip?

Some of the problems are easier: If you have 5 drums of kerosene and need to keep two refrigerators running in order to keep the vaccines in the EPI cold chain good and you use one drum per refrigerator every two weeks how long will the kerosene last?

Or: If you hire two day labourers to help you move the 450 bags of CSB and you can fit 28 bags per vehicle trip between the warehouses but after two trips you realise that you might have hired two of the slowest, laziest guys in town so you start hauling CSB yourself to shame them into the recognition that 25kg bags are not actually all that heavy and that you are, after all, a girl who is working faster than they are. How many days will it take you to move all the CSB and how many ibuprofen will you need to take for the next week because after a day of hauling 25kg bags of CSB every muscle in your body is extremely pissed off?

Have I mentioned that I hate math(s) [for the British audience]? The last math(s) class I took was when I was fifteen and I have managed, rather proudly, to survive the rest of my life without another one. I hate everything about the subject. Numbers don’t make sense to me and word problems are just plain offensive. Throwing some numbers into a bunch of words just ruins a good story and never tells you what you actually want to know…why was the New York train so much faster than the Detroit train? When was that tunnel to Paris actually completed? So, you can imagine how much I look forward to rising every morning to sort these things out. It does make me wish, however, that I had paid more attention in the fourth grade.

2 comments:

Lee said...

What has how fast a train is going have to do with anything, as long as it gets there. Now you know why I always sent you to your father to help you with your math homework. I didn't do all that well in english either so you have exceeded above and beyond despite the handicap.Keep up the good.

Love ya'
Mom

David Cuthbert said...

Nor do they tell you that, in a fit of bad logistics, the trains are headed to Paris, Idaho by mistake.