ISTAT News | 17 August 2020
COVID-19 Relief Grant Recipient Spotlight: Mission Aviation Fellowship
ISTAT Funds Flying to Fight Coronavirus
By Paul Beck
The ability to manage any healthcare crisis varies greatly by wealth and location. With many rural communities in developing nations lacking medical facilities and expertise, the humanitarian flights offered by Christian not-for-profit Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) are vital. Today, the group’s 135 light aircraft (including Cessna 208s, 206s, 128s and GippsAero GA8 Airvans) deliver doctors, medicine and other life-transforming cargo to populations isolated by mountains, rivers and primitive roads.
As Covid-19 engulfed the globe, many countries where MAF operates implemented strict lockdowns and travel restrictions. The flying lifeline provided by pilots volunteering their professional skills suddenly became inoperable as aircraft remained on the ground. However, thanks to the ISTAT Foundation and the implementation of safety procedures, MAF flights to tackle coronavirus are taking off!
With the need for swift action defining responses to the pandemic, governments have been reassured by MAF’s record of assisting in previous outbreaks of Ebola. Permission for humanitarian flights have been granted as hardworking local staff disinfect aircraft after every flight, check passengers’ temperatures and enforce the wearing of facemasks on board. These safety measures have been enhanced by the fitting of a purposely-designed transparent plastic shield behind the cockpit.
In South Sudan, prolonged ethnic conflict has shattered the infrastructure needed to provide healthcare. Partnering with Samaritan’s Purse, MAF therefore completed 200 hours of flying to Mayendit to further the availability of an essential resource for tackling coronavirus – water. Because villagers in this region of Unity State already struggle to carry supplies over long distances, promoting a message of extra handwashing became especially challenging. To address this, flights transported wood to build handpumps as well as cement and gravel for digging boreholes. “Through MAF, we could deliver 23 tons of supplies!” explains Samaritan’s Purse Senior Operations Relief Manager Bikram Rai.
In Bangladesh, it is the abundance of water which hampers development. The human distancing needed to limit Covid-19 is especially challenging in this densely populated south Asian nation and despite a restrictive lockdown, coronavirus cases are approaching 250,000. MAF operates an amphibious Cessna Caravan from the capital Dhaka, which recently brought staff from the charity BRAC to Ghat. Upon arrival, they trained local communities in how to identify coronavirus patients, safely deliver them to hospital and trace their personal contacts. If successful, this trial will be expanded to other areas of the country.
This focus on supporting existing medical facilities is a major aspect of MAF’s work to tackle coronavirus in the Developing World. “We simply don’t have enough isolation facilities, enough medical officers and enough equipment,” reports Papua New Guinean official Powes Parkop. In that Pacific nation, MAF has flown healthcare teams to Balimo Hospital – a very difficult region to drive to – where they are checking stocks of drugs, training staff in using personal protective equipment and establishing a separate clinic for coronavirus patients. With more such flights planned to contain Covid-19 among the world’s poorest and most isolated people, MAF is extremely grateful for the generous partnership of the ISTAT Foundation at this time.
For more information on the inspiring work of Mission Aviation Fellowship, please visit https://maf.org/.