Direct Relief

Direct Relief (formerly known as Direct Relief International) is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides emergency medical assistance and disaster relief in the United States and internationally."[1]

The organization is headed by an independent Board of Directors and President and CEO, Thomas Tighe.[6]


In 1945, William Zimdin, an Estonian immigrant to the United States and businessman, began sending thousands of relief parcels to relatives, friends, and former employees in Europe to help with the aftermath of World War II.[2][7][8] In 1948, Zimdin formalized his efforts with the establishment of the William Zimdin Foundation.[9] Dezso Karczag, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant assumed management of the foundation following Zimdin's death in 1951. Karczag changed the organization's name to Direct Relief Foundation in 1957.[9]

In the early 1960s, the foundation refined its mission to serve disadvantaged populations in medically underserved communities around the world.[10] To assist with this effort, Direct Relief became licensed as a wholesale pharmacy in 1962 to be able to provide prescription medicines.[10] During this time, the organization also supported victims of natural disasters in the U.S. and homeless populations in Santa Barbara, California.[11] The foundation assumed the name Direct Relief International in 1982.[12][7]

In 2004, the organization provided almost $122 million in medical aid to 54 countries.[13] That same year, Direct Relief assisted Sri Ramakrishna Math and GlaxoSmithKline with designing and implementing a One Year Nurse Assistant Training program in India.[14] The program was started to empower young women in districts affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami. By 2019, over 1200 nurses had graduated.[14]

In 2011, Direct Relief Women held its first-ever fundraiser for Direct Relief International. All money raised went toward providing safe births around the world.[15] In 2013, Direct Relief International assumed the name Direct Relief.[12]

After raising $3,300 for American Cancer Society through a partnership with Direct Relief in 2016, Matthew Moffit and Direct Relief produced Zeldathon (playing Legend of Zelda for 36 hours straight) and formed Direct Relief Gaming, which has raised $1.6M since its inception.[16]

In 2018, Direct Relief provided about $1.2 billion worth of wholesale materials to health centers in over 100 countries.


Between 2000 – 2014, the organization's operating budget averaged roughly $11 million.[17] Over the same period, it reported delivering more than $1.6 billion in medical resources and supplies in the U.S. and the world.[18] Medical supplies come largely through in-kind donations by hundreds of pharmaceutical manufacturers.[19]

The organization manages logistics and distribution through enterprise systems that include SAP, Esri, and in-kind transportation support from FedEx.[3][17][20]

In 2019, Direct Relief opened its new Santa Barbara warehouse and distribution headquarters.[21] The new building is 155,000-square-feet, earthquake-safe, and outfitted with state-of-the-art distribution technology for medical supplies.[22] Direct Relief partnered with Tesla to create a microgrid power supply for the building.[23] Solar panels are integrated with battery storage and generators to keep the headquarters running for up to six months in the face of a disaster, and to store temperature-sensitive medications like insulin and vaccines.[22]

Emergency preparedness and response

Relief efforts


Brief description of Direct Relief's efforts in preparation of Hurricane Dorian in 2019

Hurricane Katrina (2005): Direct Relief provided care to more than 37,170 evacuees and started their Hurricane Preparedness program after Hurricane Katrina occurred.[24][25]

Hurricane Ike (2008): Hurricane Ike displaced over 100,000 people in 2008. Direct Relief provided over $1.1 million in hurricane emergency aid as of September 20, 2008. The shipments contained medicines, and hygienic supplies.[26][27]

Hurricane Gustav (2008): Direct Relief committed $250,000 in hurricane response funds to assist nonprofit clinics, community health centers, and alternate care sites. Direct Relief worked with the National Association of Community Health Centers and State Primary Care Associations in the Gulf.[28]

Hurricane Irene (2011): Direct Relief worked closely with Merck to make tetanus vaccine available to clinics and community health centers affected by Hurricane Irene.[29] Direct Relief also collaborated with the National Association of Community Health Centers, the North Carolina Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA), the Bi-State Primary Care Association & the Vermont Coalition of Clinics for the Uninsured to offer assistance for people affected by Irene.[30]

Hurricane Sandy (2012): Provided medical supplies to community clinics, non-profit health centers, and other groups in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, and mapped pharmacies, gas stations, and other facilities that remained in the New York City area despite power outages.[31]

Hurricane Matthew (2016): Direct Relief sent 16.7 tons of medicine and medical supplies via a donated FedEx plane to distribute in hospitals throughout the country.[32]

Hurricane Harvey (2017): Direct Relief provided funding and emergency supplies to Texas community health centers.[33]

Hurricane Irma (2017): Direct Relief coordinated with more than 70 healthcare partners in Florida and Puerto Rico including the Florida Association of Community Health Centers and the Asociación de Salud Primaria de Puerto Rico to support existing nonprofit community clinics and health centers.[34]

Hurricane Maria (2017): Between 2017 and 2018, Direct Relief provided $70.2M in medical aid.[35]

Hurricane Florence (2018): Direct Relief committed an initial $200K in cash and made its medical inventory available for emergencies occurring on the U.S. East Coast.[36][37]

Hurricane Dorian (2019): Direct Relief delivered medical aid and emergency supplies to affected areas in the Bahamas.[38]


Pakistan Earthquake (2005): provided over $14 million in assistance to local partners to help rebuild the healthcare infrastructure.[39]

Peru Earthquake (2007): Direct Relief worked with FedEx Express and donated 32 cartons of aid worth about $100K to earthquake victims in Peru.[40]

Haiti Earthquake (2010): Provided $57 million in emergency medical assistance.[41]

Nepal Earthquake (2015): Delivered over 6.2 million doses of daily medication for survivors.[42]

Mexico Earthquake (2017): Following the 7.1 magnitude earthquake, Direct Relief provided emergency supplies to a trauma hospital in Mexico City.[43]

Indonesia Earthquake (2019): To aid relief efforts, Direct Relief made its inventory of $30 million in medicines and supplies readily available for survivors.[44]

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami (2011): The magnitude 9 Tohoku earthquake lead to over 16,000 deaths. After the disaster, Direct Relief and the Japanese American Citizens League established the Japan Relief and Recovery Fund[45][46]


Guatemala – Fuego Volcano (2018): Direct Relief coordinated with the Pan American Health Organization, local partners, and pharmaceutical companies to provide aid to those displaced and injured by the volcanic blasts. Medical staff had immediate access to medical inventory for emergency response.[47]

Hawaii – Kilauea Volcano (2018): Direct Relief aided in relief efforts by providing respirator masks to those affected by the eruption.[48]

Disease outbreaks

In 2013, Direct Relief launched a program in partnership with Basic Health International to screen and treat women in Haiti for cervical cancer.[49]

Reponses to major outbreaks include:

H1N1 Outbreak (2009): Direct Relief provided 478 clinics in 49 states with H1N1 protective items to keep clinic workers healthy throughout flu season.[50]

Zika Virus Outbreak (2015): In 2016, Direct Relief established a Zika Fund and helped fulfill requests for supplies in 14 affected countries.[51]

DRC Ebola Outbreak (2015): Since 2015, Direct Relief has provided $13.9 million in medical aid.[52][53]

Coronavirus (COVID-19) (2019-2020): In January 2020, Direct Relief worked with FedEx Cares, FedEx's global charitable platform, to fulfill an emergency order from the medical staff in Wuhan's largest hospital, Wuhan Union Hospital.[54][55]

As of April 2020, the nonprofit had distributed more than 145,000 pounds of medical aid in response to COVID-19.[56] Direct Relief had shipped to hospitals and clinics in all 50 U.S. states, as well as institutions in 32 countries.[57][58] The organization also started its new COVID-19 Fund for Community Health to provide community health centers with financial support for healthcare workers.[59] 3M donated $10 million to the Fund.[60] By June 2020, over 518 health centers had received funding through the COVID-19 Fund.[61]

In May 2020, Direct Relief announced that it was partnering with FedEx Cares to ship personal protective equipment (PPE) to underserved communities around the U.S.[62] Direct Relief has sent over 350,000 surgical masks, 30,000 face masks, and 10,000 goggles to Mexico.[63]


Direct Relief provides support to local and international wildfire incidents, providing masks, vehicles, and funds to advance firefighter technology. These events include:

In July 2019, the organization released an analysis of which small towns in California could be the hardest hit by a fast-moving wildfire based on the numbers of low-income, immobile, aging, or disabled people in the community.[72] Nine towns were given a "very high" social-vulnerability score.[72]


Typhoon Yutu (2018): The 'super typhoon' hit the Northern Mariana Islands in October 2018. Direct relief worked with Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (the only hospital in the Northern Mariana Islands) and with other health facilities damaged by the storm to coordinate medical aid shipments. A shipment of 40,000 liters of drinking water along with other essential items was delivered in late October.[73]

Maternal and child health

Direct Relief delivers medical aid to people in high-need areas worldwide by supporting partners that provide child and maternal health services through the full process of pregnancy. The organization provides midwives with the tools needed to provide delivery, antenatal and postpartum care safely.[74]

In 2017, Direct Relief distributed 300 midwife kits to 14 partners in seven countries in the Caribbean, southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, supporting 15,000 safe births.[74]

  • In July 2011, developed the Global Fistula Map in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund and the Fistula Foundation.[75][76]
  • In 2012, teamed up with Last Mile Health to launch a Childhood Pneumonia Program in Liberia.[77]
  • Provided midwife kits to hospitals and midwifery schools in Sierra Leone, Somaliland, and Nepal.[78]
  • Increased support to Edna Adan University Hospital for treatment and care for women with obstetric fistula. This included the construction and equipping of an operating theater and the development of a training curriculum for midwives and nurses.[79]

Charity reviews and awards


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External links

Official website