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MAF Sends Additional Aircraft and Crew to Haiti, Installs Satellite Communication System to Aid Relief Efforts

Contact: Dianna Gibney, Mission Aviation Fellowship, 208-498-0778, dgibney@maf.org 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Oct. 18, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ -- Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) has deployed a fourth airplane and three additional staff to Haiti to join its team conducting relief flights following Hurricane Matthew. The KODIAK airplane, which took off from MAF's Idaho headquarters on Thursday, carried a GATR satellite communication system that was set up Sunday in the town of Dame Marie to aid disaster communication.

Photo: Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) staff load relief supplies aboard an airplane bound for Les Cayes, Haiti. MAF has deployed a fourth airplane and additional staff to assist in the relief work following Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Paul O'Brien/MAF.

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.

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."

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, 15 Haitian staff, and three airplanes. Since Hurricane Matthew struck, MAF has deployed 11 additional personnel to Haiti to assist with the relief efforts.

The GATR is a solar-powered VSAT satellite communication system that will supply direly 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."

Disaster response has been an MAF area of expertise for more than 70 years. In past disaster situations, including the Haiti earthquake of 2010, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, and the earthquakes which struck Nepal in 2015, MAF has provided critical services that enabled other organizations to reach those in need.

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 IV fluids, supplies to start IVs, antibiotics to treat those conditions," said Horak. "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."

Founded in 1945, Mission Aviation Fellowship (www.maf.org) is a family of organizations with a singular mission: to share the love of Jesus Christ through aviation and technology so that isolated people may be physically and spiritually transformed. MAF serves in 37 countries of Africa, Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America with a fleet of 135 aircraft. Its recent work includes coordinating transportation to remote areas of Nepal devastated by earthquakes, helping combat a 2014 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and supporting the work of churches, missionaries, and Bible translators around the world.