This week, pilots Nick Frey and Garth Pederson flew to check a newly renovated airstrip at Ntondo, miles by road from Bikoro where the most cases of Ebola have been discovered.
Photo credit Nick Frey
‘The purpose of the flight was to inspect and verify that the airstrip can be used by our Cessna Caravan for flights related to the current Ebola outbreak in the region,’ explained Nick Frey who is also the Programme Manager for MAF’s operations in west DRC.
The new airstrip will significantly reduce the journey for medical teams combating the outbreak and make it easier for them to bring in medical supplies directly from Kinshasa. The journey will take just 1hr 50minutes in MAF’s Cessna Caravan.
‘There is interest and desire for MAF to fly to Ntondo from the NGO community and the humanitarian groups active in the Ebola response. We have made the information available to these groups and await requests for flights,’ Nick said.
Nick explained that work to rehabilitate the airstrip was carried out by the local evangelical church (ECC or Elise du Christ au Congo) and funded by donations from MAF supporters. ‘Local pastor, Rev Mompongo Lyeli oversaw the work that was carried out by approximately 165 people,’ he said.
Fights will soon be able to land after further work has been completed. At this early stage, there is hope that the outbreak can still be contained. ‘From what I hear in NGO forums and groups, the situation is now well under control with WHO and Ministry of Health doing a good job,’ Nick contiued.
MAF has already flown equipment including some generators, 5 portable toilets, 15 stretcher-type collapsible beds, and assorted medical equipment/medication and sterile equipment to Mbandaka, a city on the Congo River, a 10-12 hour drive from Ntondo. Thanks to the joint efforts of MAF supporters and churches, future flights, will be able to carry 800kg of precious supplies and personnel direct to Ntondo.
Before the outbreak was confirmed, MAF flew a medical team to conduct testing in the area, and carried samples from infected patients to Kinshasa for testing. The response was swift once the highly infectious disease was identified. ‘We received calls from a humanitarian medical NGO, asking for flights to the area. Our pilots swung into action and we’ve completed a total of nine flights so far’ Nick said.