By Ryan Strauss
2020 saw the unprecedented confluence of a deadly global pandemic with natural disasters worldwide – the largest wildfires ever recorded in the Western U.S. and Australia, 12 named tropical storms hitting the U.S. mainland, humanitarian disasters in Beirut and Yemen, earthquakes in Puerto Rico, and an ongoing epidemic of opioid overdose deaths.
In response to these unrelenting catastrophes, Direct Relief this year worked on more fronts than ever before in its 72-year history.
This report provides an overview of how Direct Relief has leveraged support from generous individuals, companies, and foundations to significantly expand global operations while continuing ongoing services and long-term support for local health systems in 2020.
BY THE NUMBERS
(Unaudited totals from January 1, 2020 – December 15, 2020)
- 2,400 tons of medical aid worth $1.1 billion (wholesale)
- 29.3 thousand humanitarian shipments
- $47.1 million in grant funding
- 3.1 thousand organizations supported across 102 countries and 55 U.S. states and territories
STRENGTHENING HEALTH SYSTEMS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Direct Relief equips local healthcare providers serving low-resource communities around the world with medicines and supplies on an ongoing basis and in response to emergencies. In 2020, the organization has been called upon to continue its support for medically vulnerable communities and those still affected by disasters from previous years while the global Covid-19 pandemic has intensified. As most global commercial and humanitarian activity significantly contracted due to Covid-19, Direct Relief drastically expanded its response efforts to become:
- The largest nonprofit provider of medical materials, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), having delivered more than 43 million masks, 7 million gloves, and millions of other PPE items free-of-charge to health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.
- The source of the largest private philanthropic infusion of grant funding ($35 million) to U.S. community health centers to support their vital front-line role in providing access to health care, including Covid-19-related services.
- A crucial supplier of actionable information products and analyses to guide operations and inform policymakers through extensive collaboration with infectious disease experts, epidemiologists, technology companies, and public agencies.
THE UNITED STATES
- Direct Relief delivered $275 million in essential medications and supplies to more than 2,700 community health centers, free and charitable clinics, and local organizations in every state;
- Granted $35 million of emergency funding to more than 500 safety-net healthcare facilities to keep their staff safe while meeting the high demand for essential services and stepping up public health measures.
- Direct Relief provided more than $100 million in aid and funding to strengthen local health systems across the island in the three years since it was devastated by Hurricane Maria;
- Provided more than $2.5 million in medical aid and hosted six health fairs for communities affected by earthquakes in January and February of 2020;
- Delivered PPE including more than 152,000 masks, 169,000 gloves, 36,000 face shields, and 4,000 gowns/coveralls in addition to supplying ventilators, oxygen concentrators, and air-purifying respirators for community health centers and hospitals.
- Direct Relief became the largest provider of medical aid after Hurricane Dorian, providing more than $8.1 million of assistance, including 1.3 million defined daily doses of medicines;
- Funded and coordinated major restorations of primary referral hospitals and the construction of new medical clinics;
- Ensured that the island nation was prepared to prevent shortages and respond to Covid-19 as large supplies of PPE had been received in the response to Hurricane Dorian
- Direct Relief pre-positioned medicines and supplies for immediate deployment as part of emergency preparedness efforts with the World Health Organization’s Pan American Health Organization ahead of Hurricane Eta;
- Provided nearly $10 million of essential medicines, supplies, and PPE to Honduras and Nicaragua;
- Coordinated support for rescue teams assisting remote communities stranded by severe flooding and landslides
- Direct Relief partnered with 30 other nonprofit organizations to form the Covid-19 Action Fund for Africa to address the known need for PPE among more than 900,000 community health workers across the continent;
- Delivered more than 57 million units of PPE (masks, gloves, gowns/coveralls, face shields, and more) to Ministries of Health, healthcare facilities, and nonprofit partners in 12 countries.
RAPIDLY MOBILIZING MEDICAL RESOURCES
As overlapping health concerns compounded the effects of Covid-19 in 2020, it has been more crucial than ever before that Direct Relief can deploy necessary medicines and supplies at a moment’s notice. For years, Direct Relief has stockpiled materials in kits for deployment to support first responders in emergencies, equip health workers, and treat cholera.
This year, in close consultation with experts and partners in the field, Direct Relief introduced new specialized kits to rapidly and precisely address the most pressing healthcare needs that arise when hospitals experience a surge in patients requiring intensive care:
- The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Critical Supply Module provides health workers with the required injectable IV fluids, IV and oral antibiotics, vasopressor therapies, sedatives, and other essential items to treat up to 100 patients who require critical care services for Covid-19. Direct Relief delivered 178 ICU modules across the U.S. and 199 worldwide.
- The Wildfire Kit provides health workers and first responders with medications to treat respiratory issues, topical ailments, ophthalmic issues, orthopedic injuries, and pain and inflammation to assist approximately 250 people affected by wildfires for 3-5 days.
RESPONDING TO WILDFIRES ACROSS THE WEST COAST
Direct Relief continues to respond to wildfires of increasing frequency and intensity. Six of the 10 largest wildfires ever recorded in California raged this fall. More than 1 million acres burned across Oregon, Washington, and Colorado at the same time.
In response, Direct Relief worked with public health officials and partner health facilities across the west coast to rapidly mobilize medical material aid, supplies, and PPE such as N-95 masks to filter heavy smoke particulate that fills the air during wildfires. In total, the organization delivered more than $2.2 million of aid in 307 shipments to 213 partners throughout the Western U.S. to meet the emergency health needs of those affected by this year’s devastating wildfire season.
Partners in these states also received 17 wildfire kits in its first full season of distributions during emergency responses. These kits serve as a critical element of Direct Relief’s long-term work with partner healthcare facilities to enhance preparedness for wildfires and efficiency of responses.
Additionally, Direct Relief continues to recognize the need for power as a prerequisite for public health. In addition to assessing and, increasingly, providing power generation and backup capacity for health centers and free/charitable clinics, the organization is taking a leading role to connect its partners with public financial resources and solar energy installations to increase resilience and expand capacity to accept medical product donations among these facilities.
SUPPORTING MOTHERS & CHILDREN
In low-resource countries, improvements in pregnancy care and children’s health strengthen health systems overall.
In 2020, Direct Relief has supported midwives and other maternal and child healthcare providers with medicines and supplies, including:
- Equipping trained midwives to ensure safe births in medically vulnerable communities during the pandemic with the provision of more than 380 full midwife kits and 240 replenishment kits in partnership with the International Confederation of Midwives, including the first shipment from Direct Relief to support midwives in Latin America
- Delivering the organization’s first shipment of aid (997 pounds of personal protective equipment) to Iran in more than a decade, providing protection to midwives at the height of the pandemic in the country
- Expanding one of the largest global distribution programs in the world for children with type 1 diabetes in partnership with nonprofit organization Life for a Child, providing enough insulin, insulin delivery devices, blood glucose monitoring equipment, and HbA1c testing supplies to meet the needs of 14,500 children in 25 countries
- Committing a multi-year commitment of cancer drugs in partnership with pharmaceutical manufacturer Teva, the Texas Children’s Hospital, and the Global Hope initiative in Uganda, Malawi, and Botswana