Zululand Mission Air Transport

Zululand Mission Air Transport - flying doctor service in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

The Rotary Clubs of Felixstowe Landguard and Durban Bay have joined forces to provide financial support for the Zululand Mission Air Transport (ZUMAT) organisation to enable them to continue and enhance their much needed humanitarian work.

ZUMAT is a non profit making organisation dedicated to bringing healthcare to the rural areas of Kwazulu Natal through aviation. ZUMAT was officially formed in 1975 which formalised the service established thirty years earlier to support the activities at the Bethesda Mission hospital at Ubombo in the mountains north of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.

The remote nature of the area, dispersed settlement patterns and poor transport infrastructure makes the provision of healthcare difficult. The need for medical care is more urgent than ever due to the huge increase in HIV/AIDS infection and ongoing unemployment throughout Zululand. Malaria, TB and Cholera are also very prevalent. ZUMAT provide the means of enabling the delivery of access to healthcare in the under served and remote areas. They fly doctors and medical specialists such as dentists, counsellors, social workers and physio therapists to remote clinics and hospitals. Typically over one hundred people can receive benefit from each trip. Emergency cases are also transported and there is an increasing need for urgent specimens to be transported to hospital labs for testing. By road this can typically take up to three hours whereas the flying time is just twelve minutes. The roads become impassable in the rainy season.

ZUMAT constructs and maintains the airstrips at remote clinics – they currently provide services to four hospitals which each support five outlying clinics. Keeping all of these rural clinic airstrips safe and operational is a challenge, however they are always striving to increase the number of clinics they serve.

ZUMAT continue to review how they operate and develop as an organisation to meet the changing needs of the community they serve. Their base at Ubombo was established back in the nineteen forties and the services provided and scope for development is limited due to its geographical position and facilities. It is situated in the mountains which makes road access difficult for staff, health professionals and delivery of supplies such as fuel. Communications to the area are basic. ZUMAT are currently in the process of moving their base south to Hluhluwe. The new base and updated facilities will enable them to reach out and make it possible for the disadvantaged people of the area to have access to better healthcare services.

Establishing the new base is progressing and Rotary funding will be used to provide necessary aviation infrastructure which includes airfield taxiway construction, flight office and specialist aviation communications equipment.

The project planning, fund raising and initial implementation took place in 2007 and the new base at Hluhluwe is planned to be fully operational by the end of 2008.

Brian Davies – Project Leader, the Rotary Club of Felixstowe Landguard

Tele 01394 278942

e-mail: brian.davies55@btinternet.com

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