MAF's initial Disaster Response (DR) intervention in South Sudan is drawing to a close after almost 100 flying hours, but more flights from Juba are set to bring in key workers and essential supplies.
Story by Elisabeth Hall & Photos by Jenny Davies
The flights have served the northern town of Renk where thousands of displaced people have been crossing the border from neighbouring Sudan to flee the internal conflict there.
As the humanitarian crisis developed, MAF directed disaster response funding to the South Sudan programme to provide subsidised flights to non-governmental organisations who have been working in the transit camp at Renk to support the flow of refugees.
The funding, supported by contributions made through MAF resourcing groups as well as a grant from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), has allowed MAF to meet a considerable need for flights at a critical time.
Thanks to that support, the DR team were able to bring in pilot Hansjoerg Schlatter and aircraft 5X-SCO from MAF Uganda to boost the response through offering additional and timely flight capacity. The initial response was completed sooner than envisaged thanks to the arrival of the additional MAF aircraft.
The subsidised flights that MAF provided were able to bridge the time-gap, allowing the responding agencies to help those in need, while working to secure ongoing funding for the response.
MAF’s Director of Global Disaster Response, Vaughan Woodward said “MAF’s agility and early response has helped to ‘prime the pump’ for ongoing relief activities. The time savings enabled by MAF’s aircraft means that help has been delivered in hours rather than in days or weeks compared to overland travel.
“We are grateful for the support from SDC and MAF resourcing groups, which enabled us to respond quickly during this period.
“An initial grant supplied to MAF for a package of flights has been completed but MAF’s flights will continue to provide a service for organisations providing relief.
“If funding continues to come in, MAF can offer more subsidised flights to the national NGOs who lack access to international funding streams, to assist them to respond to the ongoing crisis.”
The national and international NGOs using the flights included Citizen's Call/ERRI, Cordaid, MSF Belgium, IOM, Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Caritas South Sudan.
MAF flights forming part of this intervention carried 194 passengers over 33 flights.
During 99.3 flying hours, a total of 26.8 tons were airflifted.
MAF South Sudan pilot Ide Gooden said the journey to Renk, often with a fully-laden aircraft, includes a refuelling stop because of the long distances covered.
"The weather is a challenge. It's also a long flight. It's six hours back and forth," he said.
"But it's okay. I love to do it - to help these people out."
Organisations working on the ground with refugees have been successful in moving large numbers of people onwards from Renk, but the tide of displaced people means the need will likely remain for some time to come. Although there are Sudanese refugees looking for a way out of the conflict, many are South Sudanese people returning due to the violence.
"On the last two flights I had passengers who were actually originally South Sudanese and they fled because of the war in South Sudan. They fled to Sudan and they built a new life there. And now there's a war over there. And now they are coming back and fleeing back to South Sudan," Ide said.
"In that camp, it's just horrible for people. I'm glad that we are able to take these people out. We've been flying a lot of kids as well on these flights, a lot of families, and then we take them to Juba.
"Those are the biggest challenges, to get people out of there and to bring stuff in to help the people who still have to stay a bit longer.
"We're really helping the situation, of course there's only so much you can take in the Caravan, and I think what we're doing is really good."
Conditions on the ground in Renk are being made worse by the wet season, which continues until October.
MAF will continue to support the aid efforts in Renk as part of its South Sudan operations as we seek to bring help, hope and healing to the people that need it most.