Congo-Kinshasa (MNN) — You've read the stories about leprosy in the Bible. It's a disease that, left untreated, can disfigure a person. The flesh-eating disease is alive and well in mostly impoverished countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to the American Leprosy Mission, every two minutes someone is diagnosed with leprosy. While many often believe it's been eradicated, it still occurs in more than 100 countries around the world. Up to 4 million people have disabilities as a result of leprosy.
Directly related to leprosy is the Buruli Ulcer, a flesh-eating disease that attacks mostly children in about 15 West African countries.
Mission Aviation Fellowship is playing a part in treating patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo by flying medical professionals into areas infected with these two diseases.
Pederson is a pilot/mechanic headquartered at MAF's base in Kinshasa. "We're centered here because it's a place where there are many isolated peoples. Our hope is that through our work we can see physical and spiritual transformation."
A part of the work of MAF is to provide air-transportation for American Leprosy Mission. "We're bringing in experts to do training for some of the national nurses and doctors. Then also, they help with planning and strategy on how they're able to help the hurting people in the Congo."
Leprosy is a problem in Congo, says Pederson. "In the last year, they had over 5,000 new cases. And of those 5000 new cases, around 10% already have a severe disfiguration."
According to Pederson, MAF is vital for treatment. "There are no roads to get to that region. There are a couple of rivers that would go up that direction, but it would take weeks of travel tim. So we can fly up there in about 3.5 hours. It will save them many weeks of travel time."
Many leprosy and buruli ulcer patients need spiritual guidance. "What we try to do then is to have a spiritual witness to them. They're often outcast by their family and friends, so they're in a very vulnerable position. But to show them the love of Christ really has an impact on them." says Pederson.
While MAF is providing this much-needed service, Pederson says aviation fuel is still a problem. Why? "Our [aviation gasoline] avgas is now over $10 a gallon, so that really affects what we can do with some of our smaller airplanes. The price of jet fuel is up over 25% already this year. So that really is a concern for our budget going forward."
MAF has ways you can support their work in the DRC. Click here to adopt an aircraft.