Baltimore Sun Profiles Organization That Provides Health Care, Antiretroviral Access to Rural Lesotho Villages
The Baltimore Sun on Thursday profiled the Idaho-based Mission Aviation Fellowship, a religious organization that flies health care workers to rural villages in Lesotho to provide care to people cut off by "poor or nonexistent roads." According to the Sun, MAF began providing services in Lesotho in 1980 at the government's request to establish the Lesotho Flying Doctor Service.
The group uses five planes to transport doctors, nurses, antiretroviral drugs, blankets, coal, food and other supplies, as well as to evacuate patients with emergencies to Lesotho's capital, Maseru. Ninety percent of MAF's flights are health-related, the Sun reports. Two-thirds of the flights are reserved for the Ministry of Health, including regular trips for nurses who commute to distant villages for vaccinations, prenatal care and family planning. One-quarter of the flights are used by Catholic Relief Services, the Clinton Foundation, Partners in Health and the United Nations.
MAF planes have enabled CRS to operate a program for 2,000 AIDS orphans in Lesotho. They also have made it possible for PIH to sustain projects in mountain regions that aim to reach 300,000 people who receive little care and often no antiretroviral treatment access.
Tim Vennell of MAF said he would like to add two planes to the group's fleet and increase the size of the staff. However, many foundations working in developing countries are reluctant to pay for assets such as planes and often decline to fund "overtly religious groups," the Sun reports. According to the Sun, MAF customers pay about $210 per flight hour for fuel and maintenance, and pilots and mechanics live on contributions from churches and private donors in the U.S. (Calvert, Baltimore Sun, 7/19).