After being grounded for two years because of the troubles in Congo, the Cessna 206 of Avions Sans Frontières (ASF) has started flying again, thanks to the collaboration of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), of MIVA, a Dutch organization, and especially of the ground crew of Avions Sans Frontières.
Last July, the chief pilot of Avions Sans Fron¬tières, Mr Guy Gervais, took command of the plane which had been parked in Nairobi and flew it to its new base at Aru close to the border between DRCongo and Uganda. The first six months of flying were a fairly busy time for ASF, which goes to show the importance of that project for the people of Upper Uele, a land-locked region of the country. ASF took part in a vast campaign of vaccination against polio organized under UNICEF, by transporting vaccines, doctors and nurses. The campaign dealt with over 40,000 children. ASF also responded to nine emergency calls for the transport of sick persons. The life of a Congolese priest was saved by transporting this case of acute appendicitis to Isiro hospital in 25 minutes; he would not have survived the seven hours of bumpy road travel. The Cessna is about to provide support to Médecins Sans Frontières who are due to resume their work for the Dungu hospital now rebuilt after burning clown in 1998. As usual, the ASF plane was often used for the transport of personnel and of a variety of goods: materials for schools, kerosene, tools and non-perishable foodstuffs, such as salt and sugar. On a few occasions the plane became a hearse for returning deceased persons to their villages for burial. “Resuming this humanitarian flying service has given renewed hope, creating an atmosphere of trust and solidarity among the Congolese, and between Congolese and Canadians,” averred Guy Gervais who had eagerly offered to resume his work at the head of Avions Sans Frontières. “I wanted to respond to the expectations of the underprivileged and the isolated, but also to honour the courage of Ndombe, the ASF administrator who had spent six days on his motorcycle to secure the permits allowing ASF to fly again.”