The most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, fearlessly took the co-pilot seat in a Cessna Caravan 208 aircraft to reach an Ebola-effected cities in east Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday (23 October 2019).
Flying with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), the world’s largest humanitarian airline, Mr Welby took an aerial view of two Ebola-effected hot zones before landing in Beni and Butembo where the virus is being contained by an army of health workers and humanitarian NGOs.
Following strict WHO anti-contamination procedures, The Archbishop toured Beni and Butembo hospitals, which have been transformed into Ebola treatment facilities. The sites are a hub of medical activity with quarantine units, screening centres and blood-testing tents set up to combat the disease.
Mr Welby is an experienced MAF passenger, previously visiting Uganda in 2017 and South Sudan in 2014 to honour those whose lives had been devastated by the ongoing civil war.
The Archbishop is impressed by MAF’s humanitarian lifeline, and when sensing some nerves before take-off, he said,
“You have nothing to worry about. MAF fly in the most difficult places in the world, landing at the most difficult runways and they do it with the highest safety standards.”
Throughout the Ebola crisis, MAF has been on standby to offer emergency evacuation flights, deliver blood samples and fly those working to combat the virus.
Thousands of vaccines have been delivered because MAF planes can transport them quickly and safely. Boxes of scrubs, gloves and oxygen tanks have been flown and the WHO has been able to reach areas in the middle of nowhere. The situation is complex, and with the threat of violence now increasing in the DRC, MAF is seen as a safe and trusted way to travel and transport vital equipment.
MAF Pilot Nick Frey was honoured to fly the Archbishop and his team to see first-hand how medical assistance is being sped to the heart of the Ebola crisis. Nick said:
“It’s not every day that the Archbishop of Canterbury is your co-pilot! He is a very kind and energetic man of God, and it was a real honour to fly him to see the lifesaving work taking place in Beni and Butembo. The medical teams are doing an amazing job, and it’s wonderful that MAF can play our part by flying key people and equipment to help fight this terrible disease.”