Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

South Coast Nonprofit Plays Key Part In Coronavirus Battle, Sending Medical Supplies Around World

Photo by Lara Cooper
Direct Relief
A shipment of medical supplies leaving Direct Relief's Santa Barbara County warehouse

For more than a half century, a Santa Barbara County based nonprofit has delivered medicine and medical supplies to counties ravaged by earthquakes, famine, and disease.  Closer to home, Direct Relief has helped beef up medical care in underserved parts of the U.S, and supplied masks to hundreds of thousands of people on the Central and South Coasts during brush fires.  

But the requests for aid it's received as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have been unprecedented. 

Direct Relief’s President and CEO says he first realized the scope of the growing crisis in January, when China asked for help.  Thomas Tighe says they shipped hundreds of thousands of protective items to China.

As the virus continued to spread, Direct Relief started getting requests from help from Europe, making some of its first-ever shipments to countries like Italy and Spain.

Since February, the nonprofit has delivered nearly 7,000 shipments to more than 1700 health care facilities.  The deliveries include all 50 states, and more than 60 countries.  The numbers are staggering.  They include 3.3 million masks, 2.8 million pairs of gloves, 100,000 gowns and coveralls, and more than 40 million does of medications. 

Tighe says the Direct Relief teams has been working nonstop for weeks, with no relief in sight.

Direct Relief has always been one of the highest rated nonprofits in the country for efficiency.  The agency gets much of the supplies, and even some of the shipping costs donated.  Celebrities have been stepping up on their own to help raise money as well.

In addition to the supplies, Direct Relief has created a $27 million dollar grant program to help primary care facilities across the country which focus on underserved low-income communities.  Direct Relief’s data gathering services, which it normally uses to assess medical needs around the world, is now being used to help cities and states monitor the scope of the crisis here at home.  

Related Stories