Lesotho (MNN) — Lesotho and Comoros are the only two countries in Africa that still don’t have any COVID-19 cases. But since Lesotho is nested within South Africa, which has around 5,000 cases of coronavirus, the small mountain nation is bracing for a potential pandemic influx.
“We haven’t done as much testing as would be preferred,” says Matthew Monson, manager of Mission Aviation Fellowship Lesotho. “South Africa is sort of our temperature gauge of what is going on in Lesotho, and South Africa was having definitely some explosive cases where things were expanding and growing so they went into lockdown. Shortly after that, Lesotho followed.”
Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has the country on lockdown until May 5 and deployed the military to “restore order” in the capital, Maseru. The government also plans to release mass coronavirus screening and testing in high-risk areas.
MAF serves Lesotho by flying into remote areas with medical, physical, and spiritual aid. A big part of MAF’s work in the country includes the Lesotho Flying Doctor Service which supports clinics and hospitals in hard-to-reach areas, mostly by shuttling doctors and nurses to and from these locations.
Due to the current lockdown, MAF has suspended normal day-to-day flight operations.
MAF pilot Grant Strugnell explains, “We’d love to be flying out every day to take nurses from the city into the mountains. But we’ve also just got to stop ourselves and think what harm that could do if we’re taking infected people out to these villages where it could be a village of 100 people or something that would never be infected if it wasn’t for people coming from the outside.”
However, Monson says they are still flying code ones, “which is a medical emergency — someone that a lot of times could be a pregnant woman who’s in labor and that’s not going as planned. So we’re able to take them from a facility that doesn’t have the necessary equipment or ability and transport them quickly to a facility that can care for them.”
MAF’s international staff had the chance to leave, knowing that if they stayed, they may not get another chance to get out of the country for several months.
But everyone with MAF stayed to continue serving as the hands and feet of Christ in these uncertain times. And others have noticed.
For example, Monson says, “I went to the hangar to grab some things and I got into a discussion with some military guys and they’re just amazed. ‘Why are you still here? Isn’t your country better?’ I get to explain essentially what God has called us to, explain the Gospel of what He’s done in our lives and why we choose to stay — not because we’re thinking about ourselves, but because of the love that we want to show people that God has given us to show.”
If COVID-19 comes to Lesotho, MAF could start coordinating with the government to fly infected patients or medical personnel working with coronavirus cases. If so, they will need more personal protective equipment to carry out these flights.
Please pray for the health and safety of MAF pilots, mechanics, and staff in Lesotho, especially as they explore assisting with potential future COVID-19 medical needs.
“Something that just the country of Lesotho could really use prayer for is that the decisions to lock down and the steps that the country has made so far to protect itself against COVID would be successful,” Monson says. “If COVID came into the country with full force and began to spread, there would be some challenges in the medical sector and also just challenges with the general population’s health status as being high-risk.”
Also, pray encouragement for the nurses and doctors working in Lesotho’s remote regions with little support. Strugnell says, “I’m just still amazed that we fly into these places and there’s a clinic there and there are nurses there who, I don’t know what they’re being paid, but it can’t be enough to justify the kind of work that they’re doing…. It’s not something that should be overlooked. They do a good job.”
Finally, you can be a tangible encouragement to the people of Lesotho by coming alongside MAF! You can financially support MAF here.
Monson reflects, “It’s just a blessing to be able to see where the Lord is leading us…because God is working and we get to see Him work in us and through us every day. So it’s just an exciting thing to get to highlight where God is being glorified through our work.”
Header photo courtesy of Angelo Moleele via Unsplash.