Press release: 2 December 2021
The Siyabuya movement today urged the South African government to look at using small aircraft and helicopters to speed up the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to remote rural areas.
“The Airborne Lifeline Foundation is doing that in Botswana and elsewhere in southern Africa. They, or somebody like them, should be doing it here,” said Melene Rossouw, a leader of the Siyabuya movement. Rossouw said the inaccessibility of remote rural areas is one of the reasons that South Africa’s vaccination rate is relatively low. “We need to get as many South Africans as possible protected by vaccinations as soon as possible,” she said. “Unless we do that, the country will continue to be vulnerable to the virus, to new variants like Omicron and to job-destroying lockdowns.”
Rossouw said the Airborne Lifeline Foundation had successfully delivered HIV medicines to remote stations in a number of African countries and was now looking to do the same with Covid-19 vaccines. “They have the experience and the expertise, and the government should contact them as a matter of urgency. If they cannot help, then the government should look for other small aircraft operators with a history of delivering medical supplies.”
The Airborne Lifeline Foundation was started by Johnathan Miller, a former Peace Corps director in Botswana. For eight years it flew medicines and medical staff to remote areas in Botswana, Malawi and Zambia. Now it is distributing Covid-19 vaccines in remote parts of Botswana, and is looking to do the same in Namibia, Malawi and Zambia.
“This is an innovative solution to a problem facing many African countries, including South Africa. We should add this to our vaccine distribution network as soon as possible,” Rossouw said.