Flying to save lives

28 January 2011

Between October and December 2010, MAF flew into Old Fangak in southern Sudan 24 times, carrying in almost 10 tons of life-saving medicines to help with an outbreak of kala-azar.

The disease is transmitted by the bite of sandflies and has a high mortality rate (over 95%) if not treated in time. Symptoms include fever, weight loss, enlargement of the spleen, anaemia, diarrhoea and fatigue.

Several thousand Internally Displaced People (IDPs) have come to Old Fangak from surrounding areas as there is little - if any - medical care available in their villages.

Upon arrival, the IDPs are often very sick and malnourished. This creates enormous pressure on Old Fangak Primary Health Care Centre, run by Dr Jill Seaman.

An average of 30 new patients a day have been arriving at the clinic, with around 400 a day undergoing treatment.

Dr Jill Seaman"You saved a lot of lives today."Dr Jill Seaman

Treatment involves a month of daily injections and requires patients to stay near health facilities for observation, especially as the disease also suppresses the immune system.

Old Fangak clinic

Dr Jill reports, ‘Sufferers this year have had better access to treatment, partially due to increased availability of drugs and health education campaigns. But many patients still cannot reach treatment centres due to insecurity, flooding and distance.’

In December, pilot Ryan Unger was urged to fit in an extra landing at Jiech to deliver 120kg of medicines to support Medair’s Emergency Response Team. During the ten-minute turn around, Dr Jill gave advice on how to maximise the use of the drugs. On landing in Juba she said, ‘Thanks – you have saved a lot of lives today.’

Other diseases

In addition to the kala-azar outbreak, we are supporting partners in southern Sudan treating yellow fever near the Ugandan border, measles in central areas, and now an outbreak of meningitis.

Our fleet of aircraft is providing multiple cargo flights to deliver the various vaccines and treatments to those afflicted.


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