Rescue in Les Cayes
Later in the trip, our two-helicopter caravan made a final stop in the town of Les Cayes to pick up a team of volunteers that were stranded there overnight by unrest that saw the town’s mayor kidnapped and burning roadblocks set up along major roads. The extraction was successful, and our passengers were relieved to be on their way home via Port-au-Prince.
The situation in Les Cayes underscored how important it is that aid deliveries make it through by air. Aid convoys on the ground have reportedly been attacked and plundered by locals as the situation deteriorates. The town is also ground zero for the nation’s re-energized cholera epidemic that has infected at least 1,000 Haitians since the storm hit. Hurricane Matthew affected an area even larger than the earthquake zone, destroying crops as well as damaging infrastructure.
“We need a much greater response from the U.S. public, and from government organizations and NGOs,” Smith said. “This isn’t about Airlink, it’s about the overall response, we need to raise the tide for everybody.”
Even with limited assistance, Haiti has started the tortuous process of rebuilding not only from Hurricane Matthew but also from the earthquake, which left many structures still in ruins nearly seven years later. Time will tell which efforts paid off the most, but as attitudes towards aid evolve, relief organizations will be held increasingly accountable for where and when they spend their dollars.
Airlink and its partners are still on the ground now, helping Dr. Brugmann and demonstrating a competitive model for transporting aid thousands of miles across transportation modes and borders. And they’re doing it quickly, cheaply, and ultimately more effectively than anyone else in the game.
LIFT’s Rettig said the NGO cooperation demonstrated on this trip is the best way to mitigate transportation costs, and that his organization is working to, “encourage NGOs to cooperate with one another to drive down the cost of transportation during a crisis. By doing so, they will realize tangible savings and be able to redirect those funds elsewhere, for example by purchasing aid locally in an effort to stimulate the local economy,” he said. “That way, everybody wins.”