The Christian pilot getting Covid-19 vaccines to the remotest parts of Lesotho
On 23 March, Grant Strugnell delivered the first doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to a mountainside clinic near Kuebunyane, the most remote airstrip in Lesotho. Kuebunyane comprises several remote villages with a combined population of more than 62,000 and is an eight-hour overland journey from the nearest hospital facility in Qachas Nek. By land, the journey involves a steep, four-hour hike across a deep valley to reach the nearest road, followed by a four-hour drive to Qachas Nek. In that time, the vaccines would have spoiled.
After Grant flew in nurses from the Lesotho Flying Doctor Service, 60 health workers received their first Covid-19 vaccination. Many walked across mountainous terrain from surrounding villages to reach Kuebunyane, which is 2,293 metres above sea level.
The 30-minute flight from Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, is the only way to complete the delivery. It would be impossible by road because the AstraZeneca vaccine must maintain a temperature between 2C and 8C. Specially designed cooler bags are stowed alongside PPE and other medical equipment in the Cessna 206 aircraft to ensure a safe cold chain throughout the journey.
Grant is working with the Christian agency Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), which provides flights for more than 1,500 development organisations in 25 countries. MAF planes make, between them, 360 flights a day in developing countries, making it the world’s largest humanitarian airline…
This is an extract from an article published in the May 2021 edition of Reform