BUNIA, Democratic Republic of the Congo – Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is using a new airstrip to bring desperately needed medical supplies to remote parts of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) plagued by malaria.
“We made our first landing at the new Zobia airstrip on June 9, and on Tuesday we conducted four more flights delivering 1,300 kg of supplies,” said Jon Cadd, MAF’s chief pilot in eastern DRC. “The Cessna 206 was loaded with bulky meds and other medical equipment. We had the smaller medicine boxes stuffed into every available nook and cranny.”
Mission Aviation Fellowship is a Christian ministry organization that uses aviation and other technologies to support some 1,500 church, medical, and relief organization working in isolated areas. With a fleet of 142 bush planes, MAF reaches the most difficult regions of 32 countries.
According to Cadd, the villages in northern DRC have been severely affected by malaria this year. The medical clinic in Zobia is underequipped and unable to effectively treat all those who are ill. In nearby Nebobongo, the small hospital was treating 88 malaria-infected children in a ward with 22 beds. MAF staff in Uganda obtained medical supplies and flew them to DRC, where they were then flown out to the small villages in need
The new airstrip at Zobia was carved out of the jungle by villagers using hand tools to remove trees, brush, and grass. Saturday’s flight was the first to the area in some 20 years.
“We had been told that many people were dying for lack of malaria treatment, and the whole community was out for the great celebration when the little plane landed,” said Cadd. “People from the village had been working tirelessly to get the strip rehabilitated so the aircraft could bring the meds and medical teams that would help them. The paths through the forest are not big enough to accommodate a car, and until the airstrip opened everything had to come in by motorcycle or by foot.”
Malaria is the leading cause of death in DRC. According to Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF), there has been a 250 percent increase in malaria cases in the country since 2009, with a marked increase in cases in 2012. A period of relative malnutrition and lack of mosquito netting have contributed to the increase. In DRC, 180,000 children under age five die from malaria each year.
MAF has been serving the people of DRC for more than 50 years from its bases in Bunia, Kinshasa, and Lubumbashi.