THE BAJA POST
SOURCE: PR MEDIA
Funding for the Airlink air bridge comes from a USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) grant to provide at least two charter flights a month until the end of January. In-kind freight forwarding (cargo pick-up coordination, ground transportation and warehousing) has been provided by Airlink partner SEKO Logistics.
Humanitarian agencies have struggled to get life-saving aid to the island due to transport costs and escalating gang violence, which have impacted maritime ports, road access, and overall security. Air charter prices have increased 160 percent in the last six years and an estimated 200 gangs operate across Haiti with around 95 operating in the capital Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, the island’s population is dealing with an ongoing humanitarian emergency and the impact of multiple disasters, including the instability caused by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and a deadly earthquake in 2021.
An outbreak of cholera is the latest disaster to hit the Haitian people. There are more than 18,000 suspected cases amongst the population, with 30 percent of those comprising children under the age of nine. The country’s health system is struggling to cope. Of the twenty-two local health institutions, only six are fully functioning. The first two air bridge flights departed from Miami International Airport carrying 88 tons of aid including medical supplies, IV fluids, water purification supplies, and clean water filtration equipment to help address the cholera crisis.
“As humanitarian needs persist and a cholera epidemic threatens the health and wellbeing of the Haitian people, USAID is working to get life-saving aid to those who need it most. We are proud to partner with Airlink to create this vital airbridge to Haiti to save lives and alleviate suffering caused by this ongoing humanitarian crisis and cholera epidemic,” said Lana Oh, USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team lead in Haiti.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have struggled to deliver aid to Haiti on the back of upward spiraling transport costs. Few scheduled airlines want to fly to Haiti and fuel price rises and global competition for air freight space have driven up the costs for chartered flights beyond most NGO budgets. One of the most significant cost factors has been the deteriorating security situation in the country. Sea freight is no longer an option for NGOs hoping to move aid into the country due to a lack of port security and the activity of violent gangs. This has further driven up competition for air freight space and increased costs for associated services. The costs of cargo offloading at Haiti’s main airport have increased by almost 600 percent as staff seek pay that reflects the increased workload and the real risks to their own lives of coming to work because of gang violence.
“The situation in Haiti is deteriorating rapidly and the human need is huge. Unfortunately, it has become a forgotten disaster,” said Stephanie Steege, Airlink’s Director of Program. “This air bridge is critically needed to get aid into Haiti, but we could not have done it without the support of SEKO Logistics and grant funding from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and the American people.”
Airlink provides a network of over 150 NGOs with free air transport enabling them to move responders and humanitarian aid in response to natural and man-made disasters. Studies have shown that supply chain management accounts for 73 percent of the cost of any humanitarian program; it is also the most volatile cost component.
The first two chartered flights undertaken through Airlink’s air bridge supported the movement of aid on behalf of aid agencies CARE Haiti, the Dalton Foundation, Food for the Poor, Partners in Health, and the World Health Organization.
The aid will help to tackle the current cholera outbreak and includes bleach and Clorox 360 to sanitize, and assorted personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, bouffant caps, shoe covers, and N95 masks. In addition, CARE Haiti is moving in the first two of five water treatment units, assembled in the US. These first two units will contribute to increased access to safe and clean water in Cayemites, an island with no functioning clean safe running water. A lack of safe and clean water alongside open defecation is reported to be one of the main causes of the high number of cholera cases in this area.
To safeguard the supplies and local staff, Airlink is not disclosing the exact number of flights that will form the air bridge or when they will depart but estimate they have nearly 200 tons of supplies in the pipeline, which they hope to move in the coming weeks. This aid includes medical supplies, IV fluids, PPE, disinfectant, medications, water filtration systems and water treatment tablets, and food assistance to help combat and prevent malnutrition in cholera patients. The nonprofit hopes to continue the air bridge beyond January 2023 but will need to find additional in-kind industry donations or grant funding to do so.