Malaria supply drop, Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo courtesy Mission Aviation Fellowship)
Congo-Kinshasa (MNN) ― An epidemic of malaria has again hit the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A typical rainy season problem, new cases are on the rise during the dry season this year. One reason could be because malaria-carrying mosquitoes were found to be showing greater resistance to insecticide in 64 countries, according to a recent study.
Despite education and mosquito net campaigns, Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontiers, MSF) notes that over the last three years, the number of patients in the DRC has jumped by 250 percent.
The disease is already the single biggest killer in Congo, with nearly 200,000 people dying annually, and now the trend is worsening. For example, says MSF, in one rural area, a center for malaria treatment was flooded by 3,000 patients--about 1.3 percent of the population.
Overwhelmed by the numbers, the clinic had to airlift medicine into the district to cope with the outbreak. This is where Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) comes in.
Jon Cadd is MAF's chief pilot in Bunia, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. He recently made medical supply drops involving both the malaria medications and blood infusions to several clinics and hospitals. "If you don't have the proper medication, it gets really terrible, and it's worse for kids it seems. That's been the big problem of children getting the disease: their hemoglobin count goes down so fast that they actually die."
The infection rate was skyrocketing in areas that were hard to reach. In Nebobongo, the small hospital was treating 88 malaria-infected children in a ward with 22 beds. More supplies were desperately needed in Dingila and Zobia. Cadd explains, "In this particular area, there are no real roads; there are only footpaths and things. You can get motorcycles through, which is the main way to get from Dingila which is where we have been flying for Médecins Sans Frontiers."
The good news: villagers made a valuable discovery that turned into a life-saving part of the plan. "They found an old airstrip that had been abandoned for 15-20 years. They're rehabilitating it with the help of the community. We went in there for the first time on Saturday (June 09) and were able to open up the airstrip for a Cessna 206."
Then, "On Tuesday (June 12), we conducted four more flights delivering 1,300 kg of supplies. 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."
Cadd says he was 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. "We just try to be an extension of Christ and what He's doing here in Congo. We're flying missionaries sometimes, and we're flying doctors sometimes, and evangelists, and aid organizations. We want to be more than taxi drivers. We want to be reflecting Christ in everything that we do. "
It's good news in the fight against malaria in eastern Congo. However, the airstrip remains a tight squeeze, even for the smaller plane. Cadd says, "You can always pray for safety as we fly. We just pray that the Lord would open up opportunities for us to witness and to show Christ's love, and to take these people to the next step in their walk with the Lord."
MAF has been serving the people of DRC for more than 50 years from its bases in Bunia, Kinshasa, and Lubumbashi. MAF 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.