WARRENTON, VA - SEPTEMBER 21, 2007 - Only thirty minutes before departure of the first scheduled humanitarian flight from Kalemie, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Air Serv International field office received a phone call from a Danish NGO. The organization requested an urgent medical evacuation from Kabalo. “We immediately adjusted the schedule for a priority landing at Kabalo from where we evacuated a patient who was severely ill due to an intestinal virus,” said Program Chief Pilot Dawson Tanner. “The patient was taken on board the Caravan and was flown to Kalemie. A jet then took the patient on to Lubumbashi for medical treatment.”
Air Serv International began the new shuttle service last month with a Cessna Grand Caravan based in the town of Kalemie, located on the Western shores of Lake Tanganyika. Four regularly scheduled flights per week carry registered NGO staff and cargo to the interior villages of Nyunzu, Kongolo, Kabalo and Manono. Sundays are reserved for medical and security evacuations, though in reality Air Serv is always on standby for emergencies.
The Kalemie shuttle is the result of six months of negotiations between Air Serv International, UN agencies and NGO partners. Identified as a regional funding priority by the Logistics Cluster, the allocation of funds from the UN Pool Fund has enabled Air Serv International to provide additional aviation support in East Central DRC for humanitarian aid agencies and expand the coverage area of the two existing Air Serv shuttles out of Goma and Lubumbashi.
Recovering from years of war and internal conflict, the DRC is trying to return to some form of normalcy. Tanner said that the area around Lake Tanganyika is full of logistical challenges. International and local relief organizations struggle to de-mine towns, footpaths and crop fields, to build bridges, repair roads, dredge the harbor and to improve water supply and sanitation services. Over the next two years, approximately 60,000 Congolese refugees are expected to return from Tanzania and Zambia. More than 50 NGOs and UN agencies are already based in the area preparing for their return, and Air Serv’s presence will ensure safe, reliable and fast access for the agencies and organizations working in the region.
Air Serv International is a 501c3 registered not-for-profit humanitarian aviation organization, based in Warrenton, Virginia. For more than twenty years, Air Serv International pilots have flown in the most inaccessible places in the word under the most difficult of circumstances, saving lives and bringing hope to people in desperate circumstances.
Source: Air Serv International
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