People and organizations from all over the world are joining together in a massive effort to help in the fight against Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Flights provided by MAF are one of the quickest and most efficient means of transporting supplies and people to the remote Ebola-impacted villages of the country as the fight against this terrible disease continues.
It’s been nearly one year since a new outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was declared in the North Kivu province of the DRC, with more than 2,400 cases confirmed and 1,600 deaths as of July 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO), in concert with the Congolese government, and especially the ministry of health, are leading and coordinating the current response efforts and, as the number of cases continues to climb, the WHO recently declared this outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern – denoting it as a Global Health Emergency.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, says in their statement, “It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system. Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances. We all owe it to these responders — coming from not just WHO but also government, partners and communities — to shoulder more of the burden.”
MAF is has been flying to support the efforts to stem this outbreak since August 2018, transporting vaccines, medical personnel and supplies, and sanitation equipment when requested.
MAF pilot Nick Frey shares, “If there is a special delegation of people who needs to visit multiple sites in a short amount of time, they call us. If there is an urgent delivery of vaccines and medical supplies that can’t wait for the regularly scheduled humanitarian flights, they call MAF.”
For one such flight, MAF received a call from a WHO logistics officer who explained that they needed to transport a special delivery of vaccines and medical supplies to Beni, and then bring samples for special testing back to Kinshasa.
Nick reports on what it took to accomplish this mission, “We took the Pilatus PC12 to make the trip from Kinshasa to Beni, and back, in the 12 hours of daylight allotted to us living so close to the Equator. We fueled up the plane the day before the flight and took out all the seats so we could provide the maximum payload for the precious cargo. The morning of the flight we received, weighed, and loaded the supplies, which needed to be sent to Beni. The flight was long, beautiful, and uneventful as we made it over 1,600 kilometers in just a little over 4 hours.”
Upon arrival, the team unloaded the medical supplies and vaccines and then loaded over two hundred pounds of patient samples to be delivered for testing in Kinshasa. On flights like this, MAF staff take many precautions to ensure containment of the disease, including spraying the tires of the aircraft with bleach.
MAF’s Eastern DRC Country Director Jon Cadd explains, “MAF has been responding to Ebola outbreaks for many years and has a wealth of experience in this area. We have an Ebola Pathogen Management Plan we follow to protect staff and minimize the risk of transmitting the virus. We use strict protocols for handling patient samples that we deliver for testing and clean our aircraft to keep staff and passengers safe.”
Please join us in praying for the people and communities affected by this terrible disease, for safety for the frontline workers and our teams, and ultimately that this outbreak will end soon.