Mission Aviation Fellowship in Nampa has deployed a fourth airplane and three additional staff members to Haiti to help with Hurricane Matthew relief efforts.
The Kodiak airplane took off from MAF’s Idaho headquarters in Nampa last week, carrying a GATR satellite communication system. The system was set up Sunday in the town of Dame Marie to aid disaster communication.
Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti on Oct. 5, killing more than 500 people, damaging or destroying some 145,000 homes, and leaving 750,000 people in need of food for the next several months, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
In Haiti’s southern peninsula, Hurricane Matthew destroyed roads and bridges, leaving the people cut off from help.
Airplanes are the only means of reaching many areas. MAF has been flying doctors and medical supplies, aid workers, food, hygiene kits, and other needed supplies to communities that have experienced massive destruction.
“Even before the hurricane, the poor condition of Haiti’s roads made travel very difficult,” said John Boyd, MAF president and CEO, who previously served as a pilot in Haiti. “Now the people are virtually cut off, at a time when they so desperately need help. In this kind of situation MAF’s services are critical.”
Based in Nampa, Idaho, Mission Aviation Fellowship is a Christian organization that uses airplanes and other technologies to reach the most remote places in the world. MAF has been working in Haiti since 1986, and maintains a permanent base in Port-au-Prince with six missionary families, fifteen Haitian staff, and three airplanes.
Since Hurricane Matthew struck, MAF has deployed eleven additional personnel to Haiti to assist with the relief efforts. Seven of MAF’s current personnel in Haiti are from the Treasure Valley.
The GATR is a solar-powered VSAT satellite communication system that will supply needed high-bandwidth communications to relief workers in Dame Marie. Cell towers have been damaged all across Haiti’s southern peninsula, hampering relief efforts.
John Gorenflo of MAF’s Technology Resources Department explained, “The GATR looks like a giant beach ball, but inside is a parabolic reflector that can be accurately pointed to a satellite 22,236 miles away. The GATR sends and receives internet from the satellite and then I create a Wi-Fi hotspot/network with that internet to provide communications for relief efforts.”
Water-borne disease is on the rise in Haiti’s southern peninsula and MAF’s services are critical, according to Robin Horak, a physician with No Time for Poverty, which operates a pediatric medical clinic in Port Salut, Haiti.
“We’re seeing a large increase in diarrheal diseases, both typhoid and cholera, so we’re bringing I-V fluids, supplies to start I-Vs, antibiotics to treat those conditions,” Horak said. “I got in contact with MAF and asked if we could get a plane to help us move these objects, all the supplies, to Port Salut. The roads right now are both dangerous as well as it’s very difficult to get through. MAF is really one of the only organizations that is consistently in Haiti, and actually is always willing to move supplies and people, not just to Port Salut but to other parts of Haiti. We’re very appreciative that service is available and how quickly they’re willing to respond to needs.”