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Grant Somers

03 Sep 2001

Grant Somers is a logistican and has worked in Afghanistan

I was based in Ghanzi, Afghanistan, long ago the capital of Central Asia, now a dusty truck-stop on the ancient trading route between Kabul and Kandahar. Once settled by Alexander the Great, later ransacked by Genghis Khan, now under construction by Médecins Sans Frontières.

We were there to build a residential TB clinic, a straightforward enough job on paper but a logistical nightmare in reality. Organising a building project in an environment with no infrastructure (no water, no electricity, limited supplies and a low skill base) is a challenge at the best of times but to discover the site was on a former battlefield complicated things beyond our wildest expectations. Clearing a site of landmines and UXOs (unexploded ordinance), unearthing an anti-tank mine and a rocket were simply things that hadn’t been part of our initial game plan. When Enzibath, our main materials supplier, went missing for three days, construction ground to a halt. We sent word to the village seeking his whereabouts (and the whereabouts of the quarried stones needed for the footings of the clinic).

His temporary disappearance was explained quite tragically when he arrived on site a few days later. Apparently, his nephew was killed and two mates had lost their legs while trying to extract dynamite from two unexploded rockets in an abandoned building. Dynamite, it seems, was fetching $10/rocket at the local bazaar. Some days were better than others. Some jobs were easier than others. Overall, I found being a log for Médecins Sans Frontières sometimes frustrating, often unpredictable, always challenging but, finally, rewarding.