Impact Report: Direct Relief in 2019

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The organization delivered more than 20,000 shipments of medical aid to more than 95 countries in 2019.

By Ryan Strauss

Direct Relief improves the health and lives of people around the world affected by poverty or emergencies. In 2019, Direct Relief delivered humanitarian aid to locally run healthcare facilities in more than 95 countries, including all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Year after year, Direct Relief is called upon to provide the medical aid and supplies needed to help manage care for vulnerable populations following natural disasters and humanitarian crises, while also increasing the organization’s responsiveness to the leading causes of disease and death in many of the world’s most medically fragile communities.

This report provides an overview of Direct Relief’s expansive global operations and emergency responses and the impact these efforts achieved in 2019 with generous support from private sources.


Direct Relief leverages its experience and mapping technology to identify communities that are most vulnerable to more frequent, more destructive emergencies. Direct Relief engages local healthcare providers in these areas to prepare for disasters before they occur and increases the ability of health systems to quickly respond. In 2019, Direct Relief’s preparedness efforts and extensive partnership network allowed it to respond.

Specifically designed products allow the organization to scale and deploy rapidly to emergencies. Prior to hurricane season each year, Hurricane Preparedness Packs are pre-positioned with clinics and health centers in hurricane-prone areas. In 2019, 75 packs were pre-positioned in the United States and 15 packs were distributed globally, a 20 percent increase over the previous year.

With wildfires burning with increased frequency and intensity, Direct Relief designed a Wildfire Kit, which contains medication and supplies that are requested by health providers when a wildfire occurs. The kits are designed to address the most common wildfire-related medical conditions and issues in a clinic or shelter and can equip providers to assist approximately 250 people for 3 to 5 days. The first Wildfire Kit was distributed during the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County in October 2019.

Direct Relief also equips health professionals with Emergency Medical Backpacks, which contain 58 essential emergency medical supplies and are distributed for use by first responders in disaster areas. The organization distributed more than 500 backpacks to 13 countries.


Direct Relief provides a wide range of pharmaceuticals, durable supplies, vaccines, nutritional products, and other medical aid to help local healthcare providers in over 95 countries around the world address chronic and acute disease conditions specific to their communities.

Non-communicable diseases, which are not transmissible from one person to another and include many chronic diseases that can progress slowly, represent an increasing share of the burden of disease worldwide. In 2019, Direct Relief shipped more than 124.4 million defined daily doses of treatments to local healthcare providers in 68 countries bearing an estimated 50% of the global burden of disease for leading causes in this category – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.


In 2019, Direct Relief provided insulin and supplies valued at $33.8 million to 27 diabetes associations and healthcare centers serving 12,600 patients in 25 countries through the program.


In 2019, Direct Relief delivered over $44.5 million of medical material aid to support cancer treatment in 22 countries.


In a 2019 survey conducted by Direct Relief, the most common need that health centers impacted by the California wildfires reported echoed the greatest need reported by clinics after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico – power. The heaviest impact of lost power was on basic operations, electronic medical records, and refrigeration.

Throughout Puerto Rico, Direct Relief helped 89 clinics replace or increase refrigeration to maintain temperature-sensitive medicines such as insulin and vaccines. Efforts in California will focus on ensuring that clinics have the power needed to care for the most vulnerable. Power is a prerequisite for health, and Direct Relief is increasingly meeting this and other infrastructure-strengthening needs in addition to delivering medical aid as part of emergency responses.


When Direct Relief opened its new headquarters and warehouse – the largest U.S. distribution hub for global humanitarian medical aid – its capacity for cold storage capacity increased by 7,000%. A validated 2,800 square-foot temperature-controlled refrigeration storage area ensures that the organization can meet increasing demand for treatments such as insulin, vaccines, cancer therapies, and advanced treatments for rare genetic disorders, which must be maintained according to stringent requirements including uninterrupted storage between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.

In 2019, Direct Relief shipped more than 20,000 deliveries to health care partners in 97 countries.