Mission Aviation Fellowship

  • 5 April 2022
  • Caroline Frykberg

Story 1: Health Patrol in PNG

In February 2022 an Area Health Patrol team went from the Kompiam hospital into the Highland village of Yambaitok. Word got around that the clinic team was coming to Yambaitok again. Many people walked for hours to get to be seen by the Kompiam clinic team.

A fraction of the patient group waiting to be seen by the AHP members

Like most of the Area Health Patrol teams, this one included a doctor, a dentist and a couple of nurse assistants. Over the course of 2 days, they met and treated over 100 people for a variety of diseases including malaria, prenatal visits, dental checks and education, contraceptive devices, vaccinations, vitamin treatments and general health and nutritional checks

Because of local unrest, other clinics had been closed, so people walked for hours to get to Yambaitok. One father carried his sick child for about a day, where he was diagnosed with and treated for malaria, parasitic worms and anaemia, and given immunisations and a mosquito net. 

The team worked until there was no light and resumed their work the next day until all patients had been seen. Rain showers hit just after the last patients were seen, and the MAF plane returned the next day to take the team back to Kompiam.

No roads in or out. The airstrip is the lighter green line among the darker green jungle

Story 2: Medevac appeal for Timor Leste

MAF’s medevac flights are an almost-daily mission.

Since the departure of the UN and the Australian Army in the early 2000’s MAF has provided most of the fixed-wing aviation services in the country. Those planes provide all kinds of services, from Bible runs to a Christian enclave inside Indonesian territory to disaster response aerial surveys of flood damage. Most critical of all, possibly, is the medical evacuation service provided by MAF.

While there are a number of local clinics, Timor Leste has only one hospital which serves the entire country of 1.3 million. Timor Leste has a road network, but it is rough and unreliable: people are known to die while on the roads attempting to get to the hospital in Dili. 

MAF is the only organisation that is accredited to do aeromedical transport, so if our pilots cannot carry out a mission, it does not happen. Thanks to our record, the number of medevacs has increased over the past few years to about one medevac flight a day.

Recently, a young woman on a small island off the coast from Dili was having trouble delivering her baby. Without intervention, both she and the baby would most probably have died. 

The midwife was able to contact the MAF base in Dili and a medevac flight was organised. While the midwife and the woman drove slowly to the nearby airstrip, the MAF team swung into action with the necessary paperwork and flight preparations. The MAF plane flew to the island, collected the woman and brought her safely to Dili Airport, where she was transferred to the hospital and delivered her child. The flight time? Just 13 minutes. 

13 minutes. That’s less time than we would take for a dinner. Even the whole two-way flight would have been quicker than a nightly news bulletin or an episode of “Q & A”. 

MAF is currently seeking funding to continue the medevac services in Timor Leste. While we are greatly supported by our donors, we would like to fully fund the appeal. Details on how to give are on the MAF website.