MAF flies urgent test kits and medicine to eastern DRC, which has seen a recent surge in coronavirus cases

Published: 9 Jul 2020

MAF Uganda Pilot, Andrew Parker, drops off urgently needed coronavirus test kits and medicine in Bukavu, eastern DRC

Following a spike in Covid-19 cases in Bukavu, eastern DRC last month, MAF is enlisted to transport test kits and medicine to one of Africa’s most hard to reach places. It was Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr Denis Mukwege, who initially made the call…

Swedish MAF partner, Läkarmissionen (meaning ‘Doctor’s Mission’) received an urgent call for help from none other than the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of DRC’s Bukavu’s Panzi Hospital, Dr Denis Mukwege.

Many patients with respiratory problems had been admitted to Panzi Hospital but were dying on arrival because they had sought help too late. It was a dire situation. 

Emergency test kits required

A crisis coalition comprising of Dr. Mukwege, Läkarmissionen, ‘Friends of Panzi Hospital’ and the Karolinska Institute was quickly formed to tackle the problem. The safety of staff and patients at Panzi Hospital was their top priority.

They concluded that Dr Mukwege needed emergency coronavirus test kits to determine who needed to be isolated to prevent further spread of the disease.

But transporting test kits and medicine to Bukavu in DRC is far from easy. The enzyme in each test kit must not to be damaged by heat and the cold chain must be kept intact. Consistently cool temperatures and smooth travel cannot be guaranteed on DRC roads and getting stuck at borders is a real probability. How could the crisis coalition prevent further delays?

MAF’s 5X-LDR aircraft – usually based in Uganda – obtains special permission to be used in DRC to save lives

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After obtaining special permissions to fly, MAF Uganda Pilot, Andrew Parker, flew the test kits and medicine, via Entebbe in Uganda, onto Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. 

The journey was smooth, cool and fast, enabling the medicine and test kits to be protected and delivered as quickly as possible and without any unnecessary delays. Accompany Andrew Parker on one of MAF’s many life-saving flights during this pandemic:

‘It has been challenging for everyone involved, but it also proves that where there’s a will, there’s a way!’

Dr Mukwege – Nobel Peace Prize winner, pastor and founder of Panzi Hospital 

Peter Rothschild – Chair of the Board of Friends of Panzi Hospital agrees:

‘Together we have been able to finance equipment, tests and transport and deliver everything in good condition, which is very gratifying. It’s important that this effort continues as coronavirus is not under control in Bukavu.

Now that we have proved that it is possible to cope with very difficult logistics, we hope to receive further support from MAF when transporting more test kits and equipment.’  

Coronavirus test kits and medicine safely arrive into the hands of Lab Manager, Balthazar Muhigirwa.  Decades of conflict in the DRC have left people destitute in a country will little infrastructure and zero welfare state. Many live on less than one US dollar a day meaning most can’t afford decent healthcare during this pandemic.

More than ever before, the work of Dr Mukwege’s Panzi Hospital and his crisis coalition supported by MAF are vital for people’s survival. Dr Denis Mukwege (left in white) helping to carry coronaviurs test kits and medicine into the hospital