SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Dec. 28, 2016 – Direct Relief today airlifted 82 tons of medical aid to Haiti to help treat cholera and other diseases that have spread widely since Hurricane Matthew struck in October, incapacitating the country’s already overstretched health care system.
Direct Relief’s warehouse staff worked through the holidays to prepare 258 pallets of essential medications and supplies with a wholesale value of $39.9 million. The shipment – the largest by value in Direct Relief’s 69-year history – traveled by a chartered cargo jet from Los Angeles to Port-au-Prince.
Dozens of health care companies that support Direct Relief’s humanitarian health efforts contributed the supplies, augmented by funds contributed by donors to Direct Relief specifically for Hurricane Matthew assistance.
While the Haiti crisis has faded from the headlines, the situation remains urgent. More than 1.4 million people require assistance months after the storm wiped out food crops and damaged more than 90 percent of fruit and forest trees, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Direct Relief responded to requests for help from Haiti immediately after the storm made landfall, but a critical and ongoing need for aid persists.
“The facilities receiving support from this airlift were especially hard-hit and are struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Matthew,” said Andrew MacCalla, Direct Relief’s Director of International Programs. “Many of their patients had homes damaged or destroyed and their livelihoods cut off.”
“The situation in southern Haiti after Hurricane Matthew is dire, and the risks of disease and famine are dangerously high,” said Conor Shapiro of the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, a Direct Relief partner that provides health care, educational opportunities and community development programs.
The supplies on this shipment were requested by 37 Haitian organizations, including St. Boniface, that represent more than 200 health care facilities in Haiti, which often are unable to access or afford the essential medicines they need to meet the demands of their patient populations.
Among the airlift’s contents are 16 specially designed cholera modules that include infusion therapy supplies to help rehydrate patients, as well as antibiotics. Each module can treat 40 severe and 60 moderate cases of cholera.
Because cholera prevention hinges on the availability of safe drinking water, Direct Relief is also sending enough P&G Purifier of Water sachets to purify 1.5 million gallons of water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the sachets were “designed to reverse-engineer a water treatment plant, incorporating the multiple barrier processes of removal of particles and disinfection.”
Haiti has also seen a rise in cases of diphtheria, a potentially deadly bacterial infection. To help patients suffering from diphtheria, the shipment contains antibiotics and respiratory supplies. Also included in the shipment are hygiene products, soaps, detergent and bleach, and medications to treat chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension and depression.
This delivery adds to several from Direct Relief to Haiti since the storm hit, including a 17-ton consignment that FedEx delivered in October free of charge on a chartered 757 flight.