September 10, 2013 |

Good question: where to find 5,300 chicks

Keith Neroutsos manages procurement for PATH. When we asked him to name the most unusual item he’s ever had to procure, he had to think for a minute before replying.
White truck with white refrigeration unit.
A refrigerated truck for vaccine delivery in Burkina Faso. Photo: PATH.

Keith Neroutsos is a resourceful guy. Ask for three motorboats and 50,000 mattresses in western Kenya, and Keith, his procurement team, and project colleagues in country will arrange for their manufacture and delivery. Need 4.7 million doses of meningitis A vaccine, 3.8 million vaccination record cards (in French), five fully stocked cold storage rooms, and two custom, four-wheel-drive, refrigerated trucks in order to introduce a new vaccine in Burkina Faso? Ask Keith’s team.

Keith is charged with helping our staff worldwide secure the goods and services they need to fulfill PATH’s vision—a world where health is within reach for everyone. He and his team have a long and intimate relationship with the supply chain. They know where to find the everyday items, such as computers, printing supplies, tables, chairs, and telephones. And they’re unflappable in the face of more challenging requests.

Must seat 10 wearing lifejackets

Take the motorboats, for example, each one 28 feet long and seating 10 passengers. Our staff in western Kenya use them to reach children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in hard-hit communities along the shores of Lake Victoria inaccessible by road. The 50,000 mattresses—enough when stacked one on the other to reach five kilometers into the clear Kenyan sky—are also for children orphaned or otherwise made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

So when as part of our occasional series “Good Question” we asked Keith what’s the most unusual item he’s ever been asked to procure, he had to think for a minute.

Keith Neroutsos: I think it has to be the 5,300 live chickens. On the order of most unusual thing, that’s probably it. These are specifically white novo chickens, and we procured them from a major international company in France that supplies chicken broods.

PATH blog: Why did we need 5,300 live chickens?

Keith: We were asked to get them because our project team was doing some technical assistance work with a vaccine institute in Vietnam, helping them increase their production. Part of that project was to create a flock of chickens that are capable of producing eggs. [Vaccine developers] actually grow components of the influenza vaccine in the eggs. So some of the females are immediate egg layers and some of them are paired with the males to create the next generation of egg layers.

PATH blog: Did this request surprise you?

Keith: I think at first we thought, “Really? Is this for real? Five thousand chickens?” . . . But you know, we work on virtually every project that PATH has, whether they need business cards, motor vehicles, relocation of staff, or they’re helping setting up really complex projects like clinical trials.

PATH blog: You must be a lot of fun at parties.

Keith: I do have some good and sometimes unbelievable stories, yes.

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