Starting June 1, millions of people in the United States gulf states, Central America, Haiti and other Caribbean countries will be on high alert as the 2010 hurricane season officially begins. Experts are predicting a significant Atlantic hurricane season, with an expected 15 named storms, eight hurricanes, four major hurricanes and a 70 percent probability that a major hurricane will make landfall in the U.S. Direct Relief is leading the effort to help community health centers prepare for medical needs during storm emergencies by shipping U.S. Hurricane Preparedness Packs to 30 healthcare facilities in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
Direct Relief is also deploying 12 international hurricane preparedness modules to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, up from eight in 2009.
The U.S. preparedness modules are designed to serve 100 people for three to five days, and each international module can serve up to 1,000 people for one month. The preparedness modules are provided free of charge to the healthcare facilities.
While emergency and basic medical supplies are a critical component of Direct Relief’s hurricane modules, hurricane and other emergency situations can separate people from life-saving daily medications. The modules contain essential medical materials like bandages and antibiotics as well as medicines for chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and hypertension, with a variety of the supplies donated by sponsors like Abbott, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and Boehringer Ingelheim.
In 2006, Direct Relief partnered with the global health care company Abbott to develop this strategic approach to emergency relief. Direct Relief and Abbott also worked together to expand the reach of the program to include the Caribbean countries of Haiti, Dominican Republic and Jamaica in 2008.
“Since we started our hurricane preparedness program in areas affected by hurricanes and tropical storms, our effort has expanded into a collaboration with a number of major medical manufacturers to provide the more than 150 types of critical supplies and medicines now included,” said Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief CEO. “We have also developed advanced data and mapping technologies to help identify where health support is most needed along U.S. storm evacuation routes.”
“We literally received our hurricane prep pack two days before Hurricane Dolly struck on July 23rd of 2008,” said Rolando Martinez, Executive Director, Guadalupe Health Center (GHC) in Harlingen, Texas. “The supplies that Direct Relief sent were not only greatly appreciated by our staff but, most importantly, by our patients. We are extremely grateful for the wonderful effort put forth by Direct Relief in sending us these supplies when we needed them most.”
In response to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January, leaving millions of people displaced, two additional modules will be pre-positioned in Port-au-Prince at Direct Relief’s Haiti warehouse.
The deployment of U.S. hurricane prep packs are part of Direct Relief’s safety-net support program launched to address the medical needs of the more than 46 million uninsured individuals in the U.S. who struggle to access affordable medicines. To date, Direct Relief—the largest program of its kind in the U.S.—has provided over $200 million (wholesale) worth of medicines and supplies to more than 1,100 partner clinics and health center entities in the U.S. This assistance includes more than 10 million needed prescriptions. This assistance has translated into the provision of over 10 million needed prescriptions for low income and uninsured Americans.