Life in The Congo, where a plane can save lives

Few of us will ever visit Congo but the country that straddles the equator in Africa is desperate need of help to fight a disease most Americans will never get: Malaria.

Malaria is preventable and treatable but its killing people in poor countries like the Republic of Congo. That's why FOX 2 photojournalist Jeff Jewell flew across the Atlantic: to the true story of what life is like with malaria.

"As we were flying in just mile after mile of just empty land and then landing on this airstrip that had been built only a couple months before by the pilot and the people in this village. We got on the ground and I estimate probably a thousand people had come, just to greet us," Jewell said.

They were singing, dancing, praying, and rejoicing because of a plane. A modern marvel we take for granted but rarely seen in the remote villages. This plane is more than a flying machine though; it will help the people live longer, healthier lives.

"Walking into the village I felt like I was walking a foot off the ground and I've never experienced anything like that before. I felt like I was the furthest away I'd ever been but here were these families just trying to get by and to feel that connection with people like that is something I will never forget," Jewell documented the journey to several villages where he learned more about the struggle in these remote areas and how access to the plane will save lives.

Bishop Ntambo is with Wings of the Morning. His son pilots this plane purchased by the United Methodist Church to provide life-saving transportation as well as medical supplies to help combat the area's biggest killer: malaria. The disease carried by mosquitoes is responsible for nearly two-thirds of all hospitalizations in the Congo.

"For this time being it is dry season - it's very hard to see - but when you come during rainy season and when water is everywhere - you will see the importance of what we need," Ntambo said.

Rainy season in the Congo lasts for about six months and makes the country a breeding ground of mosquitoes. At the hospital, 66% percent of patients in a month are Malaria cases.

"The death - in terms of malaria - is also high - malaria is preventable,  and it can be treated," Dismas Agoro, an aid worker, said.

Wings of Morning will provide medicine, mosquito nets, education, and access. All things that could save lives.

"We are talking of where the treatment is extremely limited," Agoro said. "Majority are not accessing that treatment and for me people are dying of that disease that should be preventable and should not kill anybody."

But it does. Few roads are paved and little transportation is available. Medicine is available but it's at the pharmacy, which is a 62 mile walk. Sick people, forced to walk for days, die along the way.

That's why the mission to the Congo is so important to Jewell.

"To see that up close and to see what the need was for just healthcare and food and things like that was also very eye opening," he said.

Malaria was eliminated in the USA in the 1950s. 70 years later, it's still taking lives, but you can help. Imagine No Malaria set a goal to raise $77 million to fight the preventable disease. Click here to donate.

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