LETTER FROM THE FIELD - Marilize Ackermann

Position: Administration & Finance Manager, India
Asignment location:  Mon in India’s Nagaland state
Previous MSF assignments:  Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti

A lawyer by profession and long-time French student, Marilize Ackermann has completed three MSF assignments in the two years since she joined MSF. This year, she joined MSF’s project in a remote and neglected part of India as an administration and finance manager. She took time to write home about working in a place that most people have never even heard of.

"I wanted to come to India for a while so I was happy when the Nagaland project was proposed to me. However, Nagaland does not fit any idea of India that I had before! My first impression was almost surreal. Nagaland is a state of jungle-covered hills, and rich in vegetation and wildlife. But Mon’s remoteness means that the communication network is often very bad or not working at all; electricity supply is often not available. These things can make you feel isolated from the rest of the world, but I think the best way to adapt is to accept and enjoy your surroundings.

"Nagaland is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen but it’s also one of India’s most neglected states. MSF is the only international organisation in the area. "Although remote, the town of Mon is the centre of the local health district and draws patients from all over, even neighbouring Myanmar. When MSF did a 2009 evaluation of health care in Nagaland, the Mon district hospital was barely functioning and on the verge of drug stock outs. Patients were paying for consultations and had to buy their own medicines.

"MSF negotiated with the Ministry of Health to support the 80-bed district hospital, which houses an outpatient department, emergency room, operating theatre, and maternity and paediatric wards. MSF now employs about 30 percent of the hospital’s roughly 215 employees."I am part of a three-person administration team. My job includes managing funds, overseeing accounting and ensuring the project complies with local laws. I’m also involved in staff recruitment and management, contracts, payroll, and liaise with hospital supervisors to ensure everything’s running smoothly from a human resources perspective. There is also an administrative component that involves managing supplier contracts and coordinating staff movements.  

"I feel privileged to be part of improving health care to a population in a part of the world that most people have never heard of. People here can now access a wide variety of medical services that never existed before. For instance, MSF recently added a tuberculosis (TB) ward and is building an additional isolation ward for TB patients who are on treatment but may still be contagious.
"The improvement in health care standards is clear and the community openly appreciates it. The Mon District Hospital is now seen as an example, and we receive visits from other district mangers looking to replicate some of our systems."