Africa – Flight for Every Mother

Africa – Flight for Every Mother

In early 2013, I heard through the grapevine that a British Obstetric Surgeon was intending to fly through Africa in a light aircraft, and offer medical training and supplies in countries along the route. Having always been fascinated with the idea of a long flight through Africa, I got in touch to find out more, and see if there was any way I could help with my experience of flying in Africa to date. Dr Sophia Webster and I ended up getting on well, and discussing the trip in more and more detail – before long, I was asked if I would come along as a more experienced pilot to deal with the aviation side of things. While Dr Webster held a Private Pilot’s Licence, she had relatively few hours of experience and more importantly would need to be devoting most of her time to the medical mission rather than flight planning.

Once I had agreed that yes, I would like to go (which was not a difficult thing to convince me of) things started coming together remarkably quickly. Within the space of a few weeks the aircraft lease was organised, vaccinations acquired, flight to Europe booked, and visa and flight clearance process well under way.

My area of expertise is aviation rather than medicine, but before long I found myself learning a lot more than I ever expected to about maternal mortality in child-birth. The death of the mother during pregnancy and delivery is incredibly rare in the developed world, but still sadly common in much of the developing world including much of Sub-Saharan Africa. As an obstetric surgeon with a keen interest in Africa, Dr Webster planned to travel through those countries in Africa with the highest rates of maternal mortality to offer training and equipment to combat the problem.

Of course, my participation would have been entirely impossible without the support of my company. I’m lucky enough to work for a large multinational who believe strongly in their employees taking part in charitable work outside of their jobs, and is willing to support them with the required time to do so. In particular, my line management were extremely helpful with guidance about how to arrange the time off, as well as advice on preparation and safety (they are well traveled through work). Several other colleagues in my branch of the company were instrumental in putting me in touch with the right people to get buy-in from the global publicity and health organisations, and to all of these people, I am extremely grateful!

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