MAF Flights Support Measles Prevention in Madagascar

World News: . []

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, May 28, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- MAF received an urgent request this spring to fly over 5 tonnes of material to support the vaccination campaign to prevent the spread of measles in Madagascar. MAF flights are able to reach remote communities in the country, which are notably difficult to access, especially during the rainy season when many roads become impassable. With the tropical climate, and cargo that needs to be kept below 8 degrees Celsius, flights are key to getting the vaccines into remote areas while they are kept cold enough to remain viable.

In preparation for the flights, the MAF hangar in Antananarivo was packed with vaccinations, syringes, cotton, vaccination cards and everything needed to be able to complete the vaccination campaign in the isolated villages. The vaccines were flown in boxes packed with enough dry ice to keep them cold for approximately four days, as many of these locations do not have electric refrigeration.

MAF staff member, Charlotte Pedersen, watched the early morning activity as the vaccines and supplies were loaded into every corner of the MAF Cessna Caravan.  She accompanied one consignment of vaccines to their destinations at Morafenobe and Ambatomainty, one hour's flight by plane that would be extremely difficult to travel by road at this time of year.

“It is still the rainy season and everywhere I look, I see green," Charlotte reports, noting the climate and difficult terrain beneath her that the plane is helping to overcome, “In the dry season, the 1-hour flight could be replaced by 14-15 hours on the local bus. But, in the rainy season like now, it would be more like 2-3 days. Muddy roads are a big problem here in Madagascar.”

MAF pilot Ryan Unger describes loading the aircraft for maximum efficiency, “The Cessna Caravan has a fair bit of space – usually you run out of payload before you run out of volume.  It was a different story with this cargo, and we became proficient at putting together the 3D puzzle of loading the airplane to maximize the space.  We would load the night before for an early start the next day, be back around noon to load for the second rotation of the day, and on the return load again for the following day. In the end we delivered supplies for the vaccination of about 350,000 children.”

More than 100,000 cases of measles have been registered in Madagascar since the outbreak began in September 2018 and hundreds of children have died. The newspapers report many tragic stories of whole families, who have never been vaccinated, losing several children to the disease.

The disease spread quickly across the country after the first case was reported in a poverty-stricken area of Antananarivo. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF), estimate that only 58% of the population had been vaccinated against measles when the outbreak began, a level of coverage insufficient to prevent a severe outbreak.

A vaccination campaign began in collaboration with several Non-Governmental Organizations and the government to reach 7 million children. Under the campaign, every child between the age of 9 months and 9 years of age will be offered the vaccine free of charge. It is hoped that up to 94% of Madagascans will be covered by the current campaign, a level that is vital to maintain if future outbreaks are to be prevented.

Mission Aviation Fellowship (www.mafc.org) operates a fleet of some 130 airplanes worldwide. Since 1945, MAF has enabled the work of churches, relief organizations, missionaries, medical teams, development agencies, and others working to make life better for those who live in the most isolated parts of the world. In times of crisis, MAF’s disaster response team can mobilize quickly so that aid gets to those in need. Most recently, MAF has responded to Cyclone Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique. MAF’s Canadian headquarters is located in Guelph, Ontario.

Contact: Beth Round, 519-341-6084, bround@mafc.org

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Globe Newswire: 18:27 GMT Tuesday 28th May 2019

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