South African MAF pilot, Mark Liprini, knew God had placed him exactly at the right place and time to serve following a crisis of violence in South Sudan.
After days of evacuating people, he soon landed at the Juba, South Sudan airport early in the morning of 28 July to begin two round-trip flights to the remote village of Motot. Each would include a full tonne of freight for Tearfund’s nutrition program for pregnant and lactating mothers and children fighting acute malnutrition, with another two flights planned for the following day.
“I really enjoy these flights, to see us move four tonnes of food for mothers and children that I knew were going to go hungry if they didn’t have it,” Mark said.
Flying cargo for Tearfund in South Sudan is nothing unusual. Under normal circumstances, MAF South Sudan makes two flights a week to Motot to support the Christian UK charity.
But these were unusual circumstances.
Just three weeks earlier, Juba exploded in a new wave of violence resulting in many staff from international NGOs trying to evacuate the country. The Juba airport closed for three days.
For approximately a week, security clearance issues prevented UN flights from operating in most of the country. Heavy rain turned many remote airstrips where MAF flies into sticky mud. Programs still operating in remote areas unaffected by the violence began running low on supplies.
In the week immediately following the crisis, MAF began taking evacuation requests once the airport opened. The second week included a mix of evacuations and the resumption of regular flying within South Sudan. The Motot village desperately needed supplies, but heavy rain had made the airstrip too unstable to land on.
By the third week, several hot days in a row dried out the Motot airstrip and made it possible to fulfil the first round of flights to meet isolated community’s needs.
As Mark Liprini landed in Juba, the MAF South Sudan dispatch team descended on the airplane. “It was like a Formula One Grand Prix turnaround. I land, and the guys are all over the aircraft, taking seats out, packing stuff, then ‘Go, go, go!’
We did every turnaround in less than 30 minutes,” Mark described. “The MAF crew on the ground was really outstanding. All that played a major role in assisting the people in Motot.
We were able to do two rotations a day, two days in a row, which was six hours of flying each day, hauling four tonnes of stuff up to the clinic to help these kids and mothers who desperately needed the nutrition.”
“Thanks for the important service that MAF is providing,” Enkas Chau, Tearfund’s area coordinator in Motot wrote to MAF following the deliveries. “MAF has helped to deliver supplies like Plumpy’Nut for children under five suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), and Corn and Soy Bean for pregnant and lactating mothers suffering from Moderate Acute Malnutrition. Thank you for your prompt delivery which helped the services continue.”
Plumpy’Nut is a peanut based paste which serves as a treatment of SAM. It has drastically decreased the mortality rate of children and has been spoken of as significant as the discovery of penicillin.
A May 2016 pre-harvest Nutrition SMART survey in Uror County where Tearfund works found that the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of children under five had reached 24.8%, and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) rate hit 6.8%, both alarming levels based on World Health Organization standards.
Without proper treatment, particularly those diagnosed as SAM, children are at high risk of getting other illnesses and may even die.
Tearfund operates nine feeding centers in Uror to combat the problem. After community screening, malnourished children and mothers are referred to those feeding centers where supplementary food is provided. More than 90% recover within two months (one treatment cycle).
“This was a tangible way I was helping,” Mark said, “and that for me was a very, very fulfilling thing to have done.”
MAF believes in serving people and that flows through the organisation from the ground staff, to the pilots, the office staff to the wives and mothers living in remote communities.
We are passionate about giving the hungry something to eat, giving the thirsty something to drink, inviting the stranger in, clothing the naked,
looking after the sick and visiting those in prison.
As we follow the Word of God, loving and serving our neighbours, we see their hearts respond and so the seed is planted.
Mark and Lorraine Liprini have been with Mission Aviation Fellowship since 2001. Mark is a pilot for Mission
Aviation Fellowship’s Disaster
Response (DR) Team and Lorraine works at their local church in
Story by LuAnne Cadd
Edited by Gabriella Szabo
MAF blogs are written by various authors