Last night, Airlink was honored to receive the Humanitarian Award in the International Non-Governmental Organizations Category for contributions to the fight against the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone from the Ambassador of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Airlink accepted the award on behalf of its partners, which included 10 airlines and 37 nonprofit humanitarian aid organizations, as well as major funder, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
“It is important to recognize those that worked behind the scenes, that were not prominent in the media, but that were critical to the Ebola response. Airlink played a vital role in supporting the Sierra Leonean diaspora’s ability to come together to support our brothers and sisters in a time of dire need. We honor their tremendous efforts,” said Ambassador of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Bockari Kortu Stevens.
Ambassador Stevens gave the award to Airlink Executive Director Steven Smith as part of a celebration of the country’s 55th anniversary of independence at the Montgomery College Cultural and Arts Center in Silver Spring, MD. The Ambassador was a key leadership figure in the response to Ebola, working with groups like Airlink and the National Organization of Sierra Leoneans in North America (NOSLINA) in the United States to pave the way for shipment of critical supplies that helped eradicate Ebola in the country.
“This was a tremendous effort that would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of many in this room, our partners, and let’s not forget those on the ground in Sierra Leone,” said Steven Smith, Executive Director of Airlink. “For Airlink, setting up an Air Bridge to send supplies and medical doctors into Sierra Leone to help was very important for us. In fact, it was the biggest challenge we ever faced as an organization,” he said.
The Paul Allen Foundation conferred a $3 million grant to Airlink as part of its #TackleEbola campaign to eradicate the spread of the virus globally. Airlink used the grant to establish an “Air Bridge” between the US and Europe and directly into West Africa. Through the Air Bridge, Airlink and its partners delivered more than 1.3 million pounds of cargo through more than 100 separate shipments. The total value of the cargo delivered exceeded $55 million (USD).
When Ebola hit West Africa in 2014, the logistics chain was severely constricted and the amount of critical, basic medical supplies reached an all-time high. Throughout the course of the outbreak, many aid organizations found it difficult to deliver the aid necessary to combat the epidemic. Airlink served as a central hub for a variety of nonprofits and aid agencies, coordinating shipments of crucial supplies that could only be delivered by airlift.