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South Coast relief agency ships 250 tons of medical supplies to help Ukrainian refugees

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Direct Relief sends one of a number of shipments of medicine, and medical supplies to help Ukrainians impacted by the two month long war with Russia.

Direct Relief official calls it one of the biggest efforts in non-profit's history.

From bandages to insulin, a Santa Barbara County based international relief agency has been scrambling for close to two months now to get medicine, and medical supplies to refugees from the war in Ukraine.

Thomas Tighe is the President and CEO of Direct Relief. Tighe says the non-profit has been shipping aid directly to Ukraine, as well as to Poland, which absorbed most of the millions of refugees fleeing the war-torn county.

"Direct Relief has never done this much, this fast ever," said Tighe.

Tighe just returned from his second trip this month to Poland.

"They've received the majority of people who fled Ukraine," said the Direct Relief official. "They've absorbed over two and a half million people...it's a lot of people...but they have done it extraordinarily well."

He says Direct Relief has shipped 250 million tons of supplies to the region since the start of the war.

Tighe says despite the war, thanks to the strong ability to ship things to the region they’ve been able to get many of the needed supplies to parts of Ukraine, as well as Poland quickly.

The Direct Relief official is back in Santa Barbara County after his most recent visit to Poland. But, he spoke to us from quarantine. Despite being vaccinated and masked, he apparently caught COVID-19 during his visit.

He says beside the supplies, the non-profit made an unprecedented cash contribution to help with relief efforts.

"We've dispersed another $12 million in cash," said Tighe.

A big goal is to give refugees the resources to buy the prescription drugs they need, but left behind when they fled their homes.

Tighe says they've been able to step up and help the Ukrainian people while still fulfilling their commitments to people in crisis in other parts of the world. He admits it’s been heartening to find people stepping up out of nowhere to support Direct Relief’s efforts

The non-profit hasn’t been soliciting donations, but he says they have received unsolicited contributions from 76 countries. Direct Relief has also received major support from the pharmaceutical industry.

Tighe says while his team has been working on the crisis for close to two months now, he admits everyone is still a little in shock about the sad realities of the situation.