CRS Lesotho in the Baltimore Sun

CRS Lesotho is mentioned in a front-page article in today’s edition of The Baltimore Sun. The article is written by Scott Calvert, the Sun’s Africa correspondent, who knows CRS well. He visited CRS World Headquarters in Baltimore in 2004 and was briefed by several members of our staff prior to taking his Africa post.

In Africa, the road to aid is in the sky
Religious mission flies its planes to remote spots carrying medical personnel, HIV drugs, supplies

By Scott Calvert, Sun Foreign Reporter – July 19, 2007

BOBETE, Lesotho – The flight to this remote mountain village went smoothly until the very end, when a flock of sheep decided to run onto the grassy airstrip – straight into the path of a rapidly descending Cessna 206 Turbo.

“Dumb sheep,” growled pilot Tim Vennell. Maneuvering quickly, he kept the single-engine plane aloft 150 feet farther than usual, something he’d rather not do on a strip just 1,800 feet long and nearly a mile and a half above sea level.

Seconds later, the six-seater landed, and out hopped a nurse and two trainers for caregivers of the terminally ill. And so, Vennell’s Idaho-based Mission Aviation Fellowship once again did its part in a growing battle against the HIV/AIDS scourge in this battered southern African nation.

The religious fellowship has become a vital link in a new quest to improve health care for rural villagers cut off by poor or nonexistent roads. Their impoverished isolation is especially acute now, with snow painting the alpine landscape white and temperatures dropping below freezing.

The five red-and-white Cessnas transport doctors, nurses, anti-retroviral drugs for HIV, blankets, coal, food and any other supplies that can fit, including, once, live pigs. And they evacuate patients with emergencies to the capital, Maseru.

In short, the planes make possible the health project recently launched here by Partners in Health, a secular medical charity in Boston that works in rural areas of Haiti and seven other countries. The planes also make possible a support program for 2,000 AIDS orphans being led by Catholic Relief Services, which is based in Baltimore.

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