An April 16 earthquake wrought destruction on Ecuador, leveling elevated highways, wiping out shopping centers, killing hundreds of people, and displacing tens of thousands.
Within days, the rapid-response humanitarian relief organization Airlink Inc. had led a choreographed effort to deliver a shipment of vital medical supplies such as antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals.
Airlink coordinated the delivery by combining resources donated by a number of industry players. They included Lift Non-Profit Logistics and its partner Scan-Shipping A/S, which provided customs and forwarding services; the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) and its partners Saddle Creek Transportation and Performance Team, which arranged for domestic ground transportation from Brunswick, Ga., to Miami International Airport; and Atlas Air Inc., which provided air transport from Miami to Quito.
A quirk of the calendar was one reason the team was able to find aircargo capacity so quickly, said Michael Rettig, founder of the nonprofit disaster logistics organization Lift. Mother's Day fell on May 8 this year, meaning that Atlas had been running empty 747 jets to Quito to be filled with fresh flowers for export back to the U.S. When contacted by Airlink, it quickly donated that empty cargo space and a critical connection was made.
By acting as a clearinghouse between airlines and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Lift ensures that the right relief equipment is delivered to the right place and that valuable donations don't pile up on the tarmac.
"We're just one small cog in a very big machine," Rettig said. That may be so, but by press time, the partner organizations had coordinated with four airlines and provided transportation for 50 relief workers and 43,793 pounds of cargo to provide critical aid to Ecuador.