Recently Mercy Air was given 130 Kg of Artemisia Tea and asked to take it up to a mission station in the north of Mozambique that specializes in natural medicine.
Go and weigh a tea bag - never mind, wew have one here (that we prepared earlier) and it weighs 4 grams.
This isn't any old tea though and a course of 14 of these particular tea bags (56 g) taken over a week can cure Malaria. So 130 Kg of the stuff is enough to treat over 2300 people and well worth the effort of raising the money to cover the cost of flying it there.
Getting it from Durban wasn't too hard - it just arrived on a truck. Getting it to Nacala, on the other hand, was a different story. Nacala is half way back to the equator from where we are and 200 km further east than a line with Moscow.
We had a plane and a pilot, all we needed was money and fuel. People in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the USA responded brilliantly to a request for funds, raising about half the costs. A week before our intended departure some guys from Hope for Africa (www.hopeforafricamission.co.za), rang with a request for help in getting three of them to Blantyre, Malawi. As it happened Blantyre was one of the few places that had avgas, so by having them cover most of the cost of that part of the flight, we could refuel there and still get to Nacala.
So, the packing began.
The nose, wing lockers and back of the plane full to the brim.
The total flying time from SA, via Blantyre, to the military airstrip in Nacala where we loaded the tea into a pickup truck, was 7 hours.
Then there was a 2 hour drive mostly on dirt roads to Memba where they are based. We wouldn't say the road was bad but on the way we passed a grader that usually shapes the roads in Africa. I guess this one lost.
We arrived after dark and so delivered the Artemisia to various clinics the following day.
Artemisia was discovered in China and has been used for thousands of years as an effective cure for various diseases including Malaria. Martin and Simone Schumann along with Myriam Wahr, the missionaries working in Memba, have set up many rural clinics and use natural medicines, many of which they grow themselves. Unfortunately the Artemisia plant will not grow properly where they live due to bad soil and irregular rain.
Memba itself is a real back of the beyond type of place. It was attacked three times during the war (which ended 20 years ago), but nothing seems to have been fixed since then.
This was the hospital which was left in ruins...
and this is one of the main streets where trees in blossom provide a temporary relief from the usual dusty monotone appearance.
Martin and Simone have built a small three roomed house where Mercy Air helped install the electricity a year ago (http://mercyair-sa.blogspot.com/2010/11/woken-up-by-whales-but-not-whilst.html).
They get water from a public well on the other side of town...
but in the mean time are digging (chiseling) their own well.
The night before we left, we got a call asking us to pick up a lady who had been ill for a couple of weeks and needed to return to SA for further tests. So on the way back we routed via Lichinga to collect her and her kids as well as the guys we had dropped in Blantyre earlier.
The flight across to Lichinga took us past some very impressive scenery that shows the ruggedness and remoteness of parts of the world we fly into.
So, after 4300km (2700 miles) and 16 hours of flying, this is primarily written to thank those people who gave so freely towards the cost of this flight. Because of your generosity many other people will benefit and many of those will probably live longer than they would have done if we'd of all stood back and done nothing.
Mercy Air Team