This August marks the two-year anniversary of Airlink’s first cargo flight to Monrovia, Liberia, which carried 15,000 pounds of medical aid to tackle Ebola. The flight kicked off an Air Bridge that, over a single year, delivered 1.3 million pounds of aid and nearly 70 healthcare workers to West Africa.
The flight and overall response would not have been possible without the generous support of Sarah and Ross Perot, Jr., who donated their Boeing 737 and a full crew to fly launch critical first flight to tackle the Ebola crisis. In the months that followed the seminal Air Bridge flight, a $3 million grant from Paul G. Allen made continued Air Bridge efforts possible.
When reflecting upon that time during the Ebola crisis, Airlink’s Executive Director, Steve Smith, commented, “When the supply chain was significantly contracted by many carriers deciding not to fly into West Africa at that time, we were particularly appreciative of the efforts of the Perots and ATX Air Services. Many of our NGO partners have told us we were the only avenue for them to deliver aid.”
Among the many challenges for Ebola relief workers was the need for personal protective equipment (PPE), which had to be worn by anyone administering care to infected patients, including 2 to 3 pairs of gloves, a gown, eye protection, a face mask, and shoe covers. With the logistics supply chain severely constricted and the amount of desperately needed supplies reaching an all-time high, many aid organizations initially found it difficult to deliver the aid necessary to combat this epidemic.
While Airlink’s response to the Ebola outbreak was wildly successful, we believe that anniversaries are a time to reflect and learn, not just to celebrate. According to the World Health Organization, 28,616 Ebola cases were reported in West Africa, leading to the deaths of 11,310 people. While flare-ups of Ebola persist due to its persistence in the bodily fluids of the more than 10,000 survivors of this epidemic, the outbreak has been largely contained.
The next time a response like this is needed, Airlink will once again work quickly to establish the needs on the ground and find the most effective way to assist with those needs.