A Direct Relief-chartered Boeing 747 departed John F. Kennedy International Airport today with 100 tons of emergency medical assistance for communities gripped by Ebola. The West Africa-bound airlift — the largest to depart the U.S. since the outbreak began — arrives in Sierra Leone Sunday morning and Liberia that afternoon.
As confirmed Ebola cases in the region approach 5,000, with 2,453 deaths reported, the WHO and other public health experts warn of an exponential increase if greater assistance is not provided.
“We must do all we can to prevent further human tragedy caused by this deadly outbreak and help countries avoid an even deeper setback than has occurred already,” said Thomas Tighe, CEO of Direct Relief. “Direct Relief mobilized this airlift in recognition that the failure to act now will make the crisis all the more severe.”
Aid efforts to increase the flow of resources into the Ebola-affected areas have been limited by several factors that have arisen since the outbreak’s spread: commercial passenger and cargo flights have been severely restricted, prices have spiked on the few remaining commercial transport options, and the affected countries have by necessity diverted existing health budgets to combat the crisis, deferring essential action on other health priorities.
Ebola’s effect on regional supply chains is mirroring that of natural disasters – the distribution pipeline for medical essentials has contracted when it should be expanding. In light of the growing crisis and urgent need to replenish medical inventories, Direct Relief made the decision to charter this aircraft in the absence of other viable air transport options.
The shipment, the eleventh from Direct Relief to Ebola-hit regions, contains 9.8 million defined daily doses of medications; enough pre-mix oral rehydration solution (40,200 liters) to supply two Ebola wards for one year; and enough coverall gowns (170,000), masks (120,000), and gloves (2.8 million) to meet the annual needs of approximately 280 health workers.
Each item and quantity in the airlift was shared with respective national Ebola task force members and Ministries of Health, and each end-recipient placed and confirmed orders via Direct Relief’s VAWD-accredited inventory system.
The medical supplies will support the efforts of local nonprofits that include the Medical Research Centre and Wellbody Alliance in Sierra Leone, and Africare and Last Mile Health in Liberia. The Clinton Health Access Initiative will also assist in the national distribution of supplies.
“This airlift truly exemplifies the spirit of the Clinton Global Initiative – to see a pressing issue in the world, and work together to commit to bringing their specific resources and specialties to bear on the problem,” said Bob Harrison, CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative. ”I’m looking forward to seeing the additional work and commitments at our 10th CGI Annual Meeting this week, that will provide immediate and long-term assistance on the ground in West Africa to fight the Ebola Outbreak.”
Valued at nearly $6 million (wholesale), the 370 pallets of cargo contain product donations from companies, including: 3M, Actavis Pharma, Inc., Allergan, Inc., Ansell, BD, Baxter International Inc., Cera Products, Inc., Chattem Inc., Covidien, Hospira, Inc., Kimberly-Clark, Merck & Co., Inc., McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Mylan Laboratories Inc., Omron Healthcare, Inc., Prestige Brands, Pro2 Solutions Inc., and Teva Pharmaceuticals.
“Ansell is in a unique position to provide support to leading organizations through Direct Relief in response to this crisis,” said Anthony Lopez, President and General Manager of Ansell Medical Solutions — a company that has donated millions of gloves to the Ebola response effort. “Our hope is that today’s shipment to the affected areas will serve to contain and, especially, eradicate the ongoing suffering caused by this epidemic.”
The airlift is privately funded through charitable donations. While Direct Relief has received contributions ($406,000) and pledges ($215,000) that has partially offset the cost of the airlift and other Ebola response activities, the Ebola crisis has not generated financial contributions comparable to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2011 earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, or the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Direct Relief’s website contains a detailed policy to explain how financial contributions designated for Ebola are used.