Global Humanitarian Network: Samaritan Aviation

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a relatively small country with population estimates ranging between 8 and 11 million people. It is also one of the most culturally diverse countries with people speaking 840 languages. More than 80% of the population lives in rural areas, with 250,000 people living along the 700-mile stretch of the East Sepik River surrounded by a dense jungle with virtually no roads or electricity and little to no access to emergency medical care. Infant mortality rates in the area are often as high as 40 percent, and 80 percent of people living along the river suffer from malaria.

This is where our partner in PNG is making a difference.

Samaritan Aviation is the only organization in the region that operates floatplanes. They use these planes as air ambulances to serve more than 116 villages each year — flying people with dire medical needs to the nearest hospital, flying medicine and medical supplies into villages, and providing aid to remote areas during natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

Since 2010, Samaritan Aviation has flown more than 2,800 missions, all at no cost to the people they serve. Floatplanes turn a five-to-seven-day trip in a dugout canoe into an hourlong flight to the hospital. When it comes to access to antivenom after a snakebite or saving the life of a mother and baby during a complicated delivery every minute is vital.

“Samaritan Aviation is a lifeline to all those people living along the river,” said Mark Palm, Samaritan Aviation CEO and co-founder. “Most of the emergencies we deal with are life and death critical — if we’re not here, people are dying.”

Pregnancy complications make up about 39% of those lifesaving missions. Here’s the story of two missions, two years apart that provided hope and healing for one young woman.

Samaritan Aviation first met Clara in 2014 when the organization received a call for a woman with a retained placenta. After a difficult pregnancy, she had lost her baby and needed surgery. Samaritan Aviation flew Clara to the hospital for treatment and cared for her until she was strong enough to return home. Two years later, Samaritan Aviation received another call from Clara who was experiencing another complicated pregnancy. The Samaritan Aviation team quickly responded to the call and transported Clara to the nearest hospital with a much happier result: she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.


ABOVE: Samaritan Aviation team loads patient into floatplane

Clara and newborn son
Clara's infant son
Samaritan Aviation floatplane
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