The Skies are Open

With long awaited relief, MAF Uganda were given permission from the CAA to fly passengers domestically after a 6 month wait. The program are required to meet health restrictions and between each flight the plane needs to be thoroughly cleaned before more passengers board.

Lutheran World Federation’s Unprecedented Challenge addressing Covid19.

On our first flight, we flew Jesse Kamstra, the Director of Lutheran World Federation to Adjumani. The LWF contribute to community development in Uganda through rights-based empowerment for sustainable development and are dedicated to working against poverty, promoting justice and defending human rights while also encouraging community empowerment and self-reliance. They have programs addressing internally displaced people, returnee integration, sustainable livelihoods, community empowerment, human rights, malaria and HIV and AIDS.

The LWF oversee 850,000 refugees and have faced ‘unprecedented challenges’ as one of the Ministry of Health’s Covid19 response team. LWF is a big player in the NGO world in Uganda and their involvement developing and helping run the settlements has been crucial. Jesse went to the north to inspect four of LWF’s offices response and preparedness for Covid19.

The Skies are Open - Roads‘I had a quick visit up North to the West Nile region. On previous occasions it would take 5 days to do the same inspection trip instead of the 2 days it took this time with MAF dropping me off in Adjumani airstrip on Wednesday and then collecting me on Friday in Pader. It takes 16 hours return trip by road but the roads are so bad in the rainy season they turn to rivers and mud due to poor drainage and heavy rains. I’d rather do them with a snorkel then drive by car! We’ve been stuck several times doing this same journey and even had to use a tow one time to get out. I believe that during COVID-19 the feeder roads have not been maintained. Where roads were slightly better we ran a risk of slipping off the top when it was wet as the mud became very slick.’ One of the photos shows a truck being pulled out of a ditch after facing this particular scenario.

The 1 hour 15 minute flight to the North is far more preferable than driving for more than just saving time and safety but also for another vital reason which could mean the director landing up having 2 weeks quarantine. ‘It would have been certainly unavoidable having contact with more people while travelling up and back down by road. It’s great that MAF was able to resume flights as I have had to do several of these 5 day trips over the last 6 months when MAF wasn’t flying.’

‘This trip I was able to visit Adjumani Refugee Settlements and also Lamwo, Kitgum and Pader districts. As part of the Ministry of Health districts’ taskforce on COVID-19 our tasks have been involving WASH for sanitation and information campaigns dispelling rumours and false information about C-19. LWF ensure the right information is given in the languages belonging to people living in remote rural communities. As soon as I knew MAF had been given permission to fly, I informed the rest of the country directors in the NGO community that flights are happening again.’ LWF’s own partners come from higher levels of government both foreign and national also including other NGO partnerships, so saving time is invaluable.

MAF is getting ready for their schedule to fill up quite quickly because as Jesse has shared with us, the roads are in a very bad condition after heavy rains most of the year and impossible without a 4WD.

Our first flight was also utilised as a training flight for Pilot Ping Domtta along with his training captain, Martin Zimmerman. Operations also combined the flight to inspect the Adjumani and Moyo airstrips on the way home where grass had grown to wing-tip height.

How does it feel flying again?

The Skies are Open - FlyingBritish Pilot Gregory Vine revealed what it’s been like for him over the last 6 months and how it has felt flying again after he flew to collect Jesse Kamstra from Pader on Friday. ‘I’ve managed to do a limited amount of CAA permitted training flights more recently but it is an altogether different thing to do a flight that is having impact, helping our partners and putting our training to good use in getting a real job done. I have flown a small amount every other two to three weeks in the past 2 months. Prior to that we were doing what we could in the simulator to stay current. We’ll soon have a better impression of how the last 6 months have impacted our beneficiaries while hundreds of our partners we normally fly haven’t been able to work or have struggled with the minimum amount of road travel that has been permitted. I can only imagine this has been a very difficult time for those who are used to accessing a whole range of support, services and ministries via our partners.’

It is with enormous gratitude that our pilots begin doing what they’ve been trained to do and once again are enabled to serve our partners, who like Lutheran World Federation, have also waited with anticipation for this moment to arrive.

Jill Vine
MAF Communications