MAF urged to return to AROB

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is exploring options to bring help, hope, and healing to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB).

Church and government leaders of AROB reached out to MAF for aviation services due to the challenges posed by isolation and urged MAF to consider returning to a region where it last flew an aircraft in 1975.

“The data collection confirmed that there is a need for MAF Technologies presence in AROB for the church, health and education purposes for support in communication and technical solutions.” Said MAF Technologies Church and Community Partnership Officer, Caine Ruruk, who was part of a feasibility trip to AROB recently.

MAF shared that it could take a longer process to complete the planning and regulatory steps necessary to operate. With poor road links from outlying areas to the capital Buka, often made worse by flooding, it can take seven to eight hours to reach the nearest hospital.

A community leader from Buin, in the south of the main island, said: “Patients hardly make it in time and die along the way. MAF must come and provide us with the services that we need!”

The Buin leader shared that many families within the community have lost their lives while trying to make the difficult journey to receive medical attention where the main hospital is located.

According to the villagers, the high cost and lack of transport options are a big barrier to patients obtaining treatment and for students getting access to education.

“MAF is regularly monitoring and evaluating its aviation and technology operations, seeking to ensure that resources are allocated to maximize impact. The feasibility study in AROB is part of that process. MAF uses aircraft and other technology to enable access to remote locations, facilitating community development and enabling critical needs to be met,” said MAF International’s Director of Strategic Development, Stephen Charlesworth.

AROB’s Education Secretary, Dorothy Kenneth said; “Our students are greatly affected by the inconsistency of transport as they cannot travel to school and their studies are interrupted as there are days where transportation is unavailable.”

Furthermore, MAF Technologies General Manager, Bryan Mathews, assures that MAF has seen the needs of AROB and has been providing support through technology training and Bible distributions.

“The concerns of the communities have been voiced by both the community leader and the Government and I believe MAF has a lot to contribute to the development of the island itself and the people,” said Bryan Mathews.

The organization has been carefully considering the feasibility study and examining how the organization could serve AROB.

With a troubled history, AROB is still emerging from a brutal civil war and secessionist conflict that ran from 1988 to 1997. A peace agreement was brokered in 2000 and, after an overwhelming vote for independence in 2019, Bougainville is working towards independence sometime between 2025 and 2027.

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