MAF plane in the air over Lesotho

MAF provides vital aviation and radio communications services to the Flying Doctor Service, churches, missions and NGOs in Lesotho.


The Need:

One could easily name this small African nation “the kingdom in the sky.” The lowest spot in this rugged country rises 4,583 feet above sea level. Smaller than the state of Maryland and completely surrounded by the nation of South Africa, Lesotho is a mountainous country made up of tiny, often inaccessible villages.

The few available roads are poor, rendering transportation insufficient and unsafe. The communications system within the country is inadequate at best. Nearly half of all the native Basotho people are unemployed. More than one-third of the men have left the country seeking employment as miners or agricultural workers in South Africa.

Due to persistent drought and resultant famine, the people of Lesotho are dependent upon food aid for their survival. In 2007, the worst drought year in three decades, some 400,000 people—a fifth of the total population—were in need of food aid. By July 2008, the price of maize meal, the staple food in Lesotho, had increased by more than 55% over the previous year. According to UNICEF, some 38% of Lesotho’s children under age five are chronically malnourished. Recent droughts have dried up 30% of the country’s water sources. The Lesotho Department of Rural Water Supply and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare state that 60%of the country’s health centers and 30% of homes do not have access to clean, safe water.

Even with favorable weather conditions, less than 10% of the land is arable. The lack of roads and ruggedness of the terrain make it nearly impossible to provide farmers with fertilizer and seeds at the ideal planting time. There is no irrigation farming or agricultural infrastructure. Assessment teams suspect the country’s cereal production is in a downward trend caused by long-term soil erosion, erratic weather, and the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

As much as 32% of Lesotho’s population is infected with the HIV/AIDS virus, and 100,000 AIDS orphans live in mountain villages with little or no access to medical services. Households caring for orphans and chronically ill family members frequently have nothing to eat.

While AIDS continues to be an alarming threat to Lesotho and its people, land degradation, capacity depletion, and economic decline hinder the assistance efforts of humanitarian, development, and mission organisations.

Although some 90% of Lesotho’s population considers itself Christian, traditionalism and nominal Christianity is widespread with little understanding of the truth of the Gospel.


The Solution:

Since 1980, MAF has provided safe, efficient air transportation for the Lesotho Flying Doctor Service (LFDS). In addition, MAF provides weekly flights to six health clinics operated by Partners In Health (PIH). Nearly 200,000 people depend solely on LFDS and PIH for medical care.

Currently, MAF serves 12 rural mountain health posts from 22 dirt airstrips carved into the nation’s rugged mountains. MAF services enable the work of 38 partner agencies, including Africa Inland Mission (AIM), Southern Baptist Mission, William J. Clinton Foundation, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Samaritan’s Purse, and Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM).

In the past year, MAF has seen a 10% increase in the number of emergency medical evacuation flights, as there are more doctors in the mountains to treat patients and send them to hospitals. More missionaries are also coming to the mountains, which adds to the demand for MAF services.

Lesotho Country Profile

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    (20 Jan 2011)

    MAF pilot Justin Honaker reflects on one of the many flights MAF does for the Lesotho Flying Doctor Service

Mission Aviation Fellowship

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