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News Around the World
Published on 14 June, 2012

Mission Aviation Fellowship uses new airstrip to fight malaria outbreak in Congo

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. 

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