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World News

'A gift from above' as first plane touches down in remote Angolan village

by Donna Birrell

An isolated community in Angola is celebrating after a plane landed there for the first time thanks to the completion of an airstrip.

The complex 16 year project to build the airstrip at Cavango was funded entirely by donations to Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). 

At the end of May, Canadian pilot and Director of MAF Operations, Brent Mudde, touched down at the airstrip in central Angola for the first time in history.

As MAF’s small Cessna 182 landed, there were shouts of joyful celebration and singing from dozens of villagers who gathered to welcome the first plane – a historic moment for the isolated community, which is 100km from the nearest village in central Angola.  It’s almost 500km north-east of the nearest city and hospital in Lubango, which offers one of Angola’s few acute-care and 24-hour emergency wards.  This journey can take over 14 hours along dangerous dirt roads, but can now be completed in just two hours by MAF aircraft.  Air access will mean doctors, healthcare workers, NGO staff and medical cargo can arrive safely and quickly at Cavango, as well as an emergency medical evacuation service to speed critical patients to hospital.

The airstrip will serve more than 60 villages in the region who have no access to medical care – enabling air-access to at least 40,000 people.

Villagers later held a colourful dedication ceremony to officially open the runway and pay tribute to everyone who has made the project possible – including roughly 100 Canadian MAF supporters who have donated roughly CD$210,000 (£124000), and volunteered towards the project.

Since the first landing, multiple medevac flights have been performed, one of which took place on 4th June when a patient suffered a suspected burst appendix.  Dr Tim Kubaki, who runs the Cavango Medical Clinic said: “This patient had a life threating condition, and his devoted family travelled for many hours to get him to Cavango.  From Cavango clinic, a five-minute ambulance transfer bought him to the airstrip where he was loaded into the aircraft.  It’s truly a gift from above in our own backyard.”

Brent said: “In December 2007, I stood at the bottom of this hill, and we completed the first survey.  It’s a project that’s taken many donations and volunteers.  Today, it is a marvellous airstrip, and we are very, very happy with it.  We are so grateful to everyone who has made this happen.”

Witnessing the first landing, Pastor Fermino Martinho clapped his hands saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!  It has not been easy, but God is with us at Cavango Mission.  This is a story which we will tell wherever we go.”

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