For the first time in six months, MAF Uganda officially resumed its domestic passenger flights on 23rd September. The Ugandan authorities have finally granted MAF permission to go about its normal business. It was Lutheran World Federation who boarded the first passenger flight to Adjumani Refugee Camp. MAF’s Jill Vine reports…
‘With long awaited relief, MAF Uganda has been given permission from Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority to fly passengers domestically after a six month wait.
MAF is required to meet health restrictions, and after every flight, the plane must be thoroughly cleaned before the next passengers board. We flew Jesse Kamstra, Director of Lutheran World Federation (LWF), to Adjumani on MAF Uganda’s first official passenger flight.
Without MAF, serving refugees has been challenging
As part of the Ugandan Ministry of Health’s Coronavirus Response Team, the LWF supports around 850,000 refugees in northern Uganda. Since the pandemic began, LWF’s Director - Jesse Kamstra , has been monitoring LWF’s response to the disease and preparedness in the camps. Jessie explains how the crucial work of LWF helps prevent the spread of coronavirus amongst refugees:
“We are involved in water, sanitation and hygiene projects (WASH) and campaigns which dispel rumours and false information about Covid-19. LWF ensures the right information is given in the right language to various communities.”
‘I’d rather swim with a snorkel than drive by car!’ LWF Director, Jesse Kamstra
LWF’s involvement in helping to run the settlements has been critical these last six months, but they have faced unprecedented challenges, especially when MAF Uganda was prohibited from flying. Jesse continues:
“When MAF stopped flying, it would take me five days by road to do an inspection up north in the West Nile region, instead of two days with MAF. I’ve had to do several of these long trips over the last six months without MAF.
During coronavirus, the feeder roads have not been maintained. It’s a 16-hour return trip but the roads are so bad in the rainy season, they turn into rivers of mud due to poor drainage. I’d rather swim with a snorkel than drive by car!”
“Without MAF, we’ve been stuck several times doing this road journey and even had to use a tow once to get us out! Where the roads are slightly better, we still run the risk of slipping off the top when the mud becomes wet. The 1 hour 15-minute flight up north with MAF is far more preferable!”
'We’re helping our partners to get the job done'
Flying not only saves Jesse time, it’s also safer and avoids a two-week quarantine the other end. Jessie explains his relief:
“While travelling up and down by road, you come into contact with more people. It’s great that MAF has resumed flying as this time I’m able to visit Adjumani Refugee Settlements, Lamwo, Kitgum and Pader districts.”
Jesse is not the only one to breathe a sigh of relief. MAF Pilot, Greg Vine – who collected Jesse from Pader - is also delighted to get back into the cockpit:
“Hundreds of our partners who we normally fly haven’t been able to work in Uganda or have struggled with the minimal, permitted road travel. This has also been a very difficult time for beneficiaries who have previously accessed support and services from MAF’s partners.
It’s a great thing to resume passenger flying, which has a direct impact on the people we serve. Once again, we’re helping our partners to get the job done.”
Both Lutheran World Federation and MAF’s pilots have been waiting with for this moment to arrive. Once again, our pilots are enabled to serve our partners and do what they’ve been trained to do.’