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Logistics for good: delivering life-saving medicine in remote Africa

CEVA Logistics overcomes a range of unusual challenges to deliver life-saving medication to remote African healthcare centers.
6/2/2024

 

Canoes, donkey carts and head porters can all form part of CEVA’s work to deliver life-saving malaria medication to isolated villages in Africa, on behalf of a global aid organisation. For our teams on the ground, these deliveries are just part of an ordinary day, but in the greater world of logistics, they are nothing short of extraordinary.

The team faces a set of complex challenges from unfinished roads, poor telecommunications networks and inclement weather. Despite the limited technology available on the ground, the team carries out meticulous logistics planning in order to successfully deliver the medicine to remote health clinics. Their agile and creative approach allows them to use logistics for good.

Logistics planning

Aluma David works for CEVA Logistics Africa, as a logistics officer, based in the field where he runs projects. He is motivated by the challenge of supporting local communities and determined to ensure that these important deliveries make their way to their final destinations – whatever the challenges he faces.

The initial part of the delivery process takes place in the same way as many other logistics projects. The malaria medication arrives in major cities, and travels from there via air cargo to regional hubs. Meanwhile David and the CEVA team are already poised for action on the ground. They pay for storage and security oversight of the medication until it’s possible to make the deliveries.

With significant distances to travel and relatively small amounts of medication to deliver to each clinic, planning is an important part of the process. Each delivery requires a unique approach and an in-depth understanding of the local terrain. Based on clinic needs, as well as road and weather conditions, they plan how best to distribute the medication, some of which requires temperature control, which increases the pressure to deliver on time.

Under normal circumstances, David and his team use trucks and 4x4s to transport the medication via the road system, calling ahead to let the health centers know that they are on their way. However, it’s not always that simple.

 

Unique challenges

Weather plays an important role in this part of the world, where roads can be completely washed out during the rainy season. And flooding can last a long time, effectively cutting villages off for months on end. In this situation, even the most sturdy truck is useless. So the CEVA team will hire motorbikes, donkey carts or even canoes to get the medication to its destination.

And sometimes even these methods of delivery won’t work. At which point, the team may have to carry the cargo themselves on their heads, to get across the water in their path. They need to be agile and creative, to find the most appropriate solution at the right price – a challenge in itself, when demand for donkeys and canoes increases with bad weather.

Another major challenge is local instability, as conflict can take place along delivery routes. Safety is always CEVA’s number one priority and the team use a combination of their local knowledge and communication with security teams to assess the situation on an ongoing basis and taking advantage of periods of calm, when they are available.

Communication itself can be difficult, with patchy network coverage and regular outages. It’s not always possible to call ahead to the healthcare centers, to let them know that a delivery is on its way. So the team will have to go and look for the relevant person in charge to receive the delivery – who may be away working on other jobs, or out in the field themselves.

 

Delivering hope

Despite the unusual circumstances they face, the CEVA team is determined to deliver. As David says, “We don’t make excuses.”

The team does whatever it takes to ensure each box of life-saving medication makes it to its allocated community healthcare center. CEVA continues to serve populations in need with its innovative logistics solutions, as each delivery of medication provides hope in the fight against malaria.