Flying bicycles spotted in South Sudan

Flying bicycles spotted in South Sudan

No, not the type in Spielberg's film E.T. - but have you ever wondered how many bicycles can fit in a Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft? And why they will have a huge impact?

Andrew Parker recently flew 14 bicycles along with fresh fruits and vegetables plus two Medair staff members to aid in Medair’s humanitarian relief efforts in Leer, South Sudan.  

Leer, in the north of South Sudan, is a 1.5 hour flight from Juba. The alternative journey by road is unsafe due to the civil unrest and rising criminal activity. During the rainy season, the roads can become physically impassable. Yet there are no commercial flights to Leer, only MAF and a handful of other contracted aircraft fly in and out of Leer’s airstrip. 

More children will be fed

The 14 bicycles flown to Leer will be given to nutrition assistants serving in Medair’s nutrition programme. With these bicycles, they will be able to significantly increase the geographical area in which they serve and better fulfil their duties. This is the first time bicycles have been brought up to Medair’s nutritional assistants in Leer.

'We’re happy with MAF’s support and flying in the bicycles. They will enable us to continue providing much needed nutrition support to malnourished children during the rainy season'

'The bicycles will be used to provide services to beneficiaries,' explains Damaris Kunz, Medair’s Nutrition Manager based in Leer.

'The purpose is to be flexible to do home visits, defaulter tracking and follow up visits for children in the program who are not gaining weight or are absent from the program. The catchment area is quite big and the bikes should help them to reach the children and their families in every corner of the county.' 

Medair has already treated 3,061 malnourished children in Leer and the surrounding areas including operational clinic sites at Adok, Dindin, Padeah, and Tharoup Gandor. 

Though at first glance a planeload of bicycles may not look too impressive, this particular load of cargo boasts of the ability to uniquely aid in the humanitarian crisis continuing in South Sudan.

'We’re happy with MAF’s support and flying in the bicycles,' continues Damaris Kunz. 'The bicycles will be of great help to our nutrition staff and enable us to continue providing much needed nutrition support to malnourished children during the rainy season.'

'A little awkward to unload'

Pilot Andrew Parker continues along the same sentiment. 'The bicycles were definitely one of the more unusual loads I’ve carried (and a little awkward to unload!) but it is exciting to think of the impact they will have as they are used by Medair staff in the areas around Leer over the coming years.'

What an amazing privilege for MAF to support our partner organisation Medair in such a practical way – flying bicycles across South Sudan so that malnourished children can receive the life-saving care they need.

Story: Karyn Ball; photos: Andrew Parker