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03 February 2011

Aviation Fellowship helping to rebuild Haiti

Aviation Fellowship helping to rebuild Haiti

As the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti was marked in January, Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is still hard at work, providing vital air transportation to fight cholera, enable relief efforts and aid in the rebuilding of the crippled nation.

"This has been a year of tragedy for Haiti, and MAF has been there from the beginning, standing alongside the Haitian people and doing all we can to improve the situation of the suffering," said John Boyd, president and CEO of MAF in the USA.

Former President Bill Clinton of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund recently commended MAF for its vital role in the relief and rebuilding efforts.

"By organising hundreds of relief flights and delivering thousands of pounds of supplies, you've had a critical impact on Haiti's recovery," said Clinton.

While the earthquake grabbed all the major headlines, 2010 was a disaster-filled year for the impoverished Caribbean nation. Haiti has also suffered from Hurricane Tomas, a cholera outbreak that has killed an estimated 3,300 people and hospitalized more than 100,000, and political upheaval that has at times stifled Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities.

MAF has been working in Haiti since 1986, and has four aircraft at a permanent base at the Port-au-Prince airport. After the earthquake that crippled Haiti's already weak infrastructure, MAF partnered with some 60 relief agencies, transported medical personnel and aid workers, delivered critical relief supplies and performed many emergency medical evacuations. Since then, MAF has continued flying provisions, such as food, water and medical supplies - including IV solution - to help combat the country's cholera outbreak.

We recently flew a medical team and 450kg of IV solution to a hospital in Port-de-Paix that was running short of staff and supplies. Upon landing, the MAF pilot also drove the medical team and supplies to the hospital, where more than 100 cholera patients were being treated, most of them children under the age of 12. Because their veins had collapsed due to severe dehydration, traditional IVs could not be used. The doctors taught hospital staff how to administer IVs through the bone marrow, a painful but life-saving treatment. Since beginning the bone marrow procedures, the hospital has drastically reduced the number of deaths.

As a result of the earthquake and subsequent misfortunes that have struck Haiti, the need for MAF services has pushed its Haiti operations to full capacity. MAF serves around 16 airstrips, and has added an additional plane to its fleet to meet the demand.

While already a challenging place, new obstacles have emerged. Many Haitians are disabled, having lost limbs after being trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings. More than one million people remain in tent cities.

"MAF's role has increased exponentially because the infrastructure has been so compromised," Boyd says. MAF's services have become paramount to the rebuilding process of Haiti. Every week we are called upon to transport work teams and building supplies, or special equipment like water purification systems.

MAF Haiti staff recently had an opportunity to help in a different way by building homes for families whose houses collapsed in the earthquake.