Cholera outbreak, Riots: Missionaries stuck in Haiti

By John Bachman - bio | email

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - As things continue to deteriorate in Haiti, local aid groups have to work even harder to continue their humanitarian missions.

One group that has been flying supplies to Haiti for decades, however, now faces a new task in the wake of the deadly cholera outbreak.

Missionary Flights International's plane is packed already with supplies. The flight to Haiti leaves from St. Lucie International Airport Thursday morning, but it's the return trip that matters most on this mission.

Twenty-six missionaries, stuck in Haiti this week, will hopefully be coming home. "It's been tough. It's just one more thing that Haiti has to face," said Richard Snook with Missionary Flights International.

He has been through many of the tough times in Haiti. For decades, he and his organization has flown aid supplies to other missionary groups on the ground working in the impoverished nation. That includes after last January's earthquake, recent hurricanes and now the cholera outbreak.

They've already ship 20,000 pounds of supplies to treat the symptoms of cholera. He says the need for medical supplies is increasing drastically. "So we are getting calls from some of the missions we fly for, who maybe have just a clinic or a small hospital, that didn't see cholera before. Now, they are seeing it," Snook explained.

But they have been grounded all week kept at the St. Lucie County International Airport because of rioting and increased violence in the northern parts of the country.

They are set to fly out Thursday morning from Ft. Pierce to a more remote grass air strip outside of the city of Cap Haitien. That's where they will evacuate 26 American missionary workers stuck in the country since Monday. "It seems, if you stay put, in your compound or your house, then there's no problem. [If you] get out on the street and try and force yourself some place, that when it gets confrontational."

Of course, the missionaries don't want to do that. Snook says Haitians don't normally interfere with American missionaries and aid workers, and he hopes that continues on their flight Thursday. Because, he says, they'll need to return soon with so many problems plaguing Haiti.

Snook says the riots are in response to a couple of things. People are frustrated by delays in aid distribution, and they are making noise ahead of the Haitian elections.

Snook says he hopes the violence stops soon, because it will keep aid workers away when they are needed most.

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