“Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”
This quote (typically and perhaps erroneously attributed to Albert Einstein) is a good reminder.
The model of Direct Relief’s humanitarian assistance program, which provides essential medications and commodities at no charge to people in need, is heavily operational in nature. Functionally, Direct Relief serves as a humanitarian supply chain with unique-among-nonprofits accreditation to handle prescription medications and medical supplies. The work is measured constantly, in real-time on dozens of factors — to improve and make necessary operational adjustments, boost efficiency, ensure financial integrity, comply with increasingly intense regulatory scrutiny and, ultimately, ensure patient health and safety.
So, everything is counted (and validated), and a quick summary of the highest-level numbers reflects a highly productive 2016.
Since January, through 11,832 deliveries totaling 1,915 tons, Direct Relief has furnished $845 million in essential medications, vaccines, instruments, and supplies – with each item in each delivery responding to a specific request and needed by people otherwise without access to it. To each of the 50 United States, and more than 70 countries globally.
Numbers, however impressive, are neither the purpose of Direct Relief nor particularly inspiring. What the numbers represent is.
A humbling daily antidote for cynicism.
As a privately funded charitable organization, every Direct Relief activity – and every person whose life is saved or health improved, every health worker able to diagnose and provide care because of it – stems from voluntary acts, personal decisions, and generosity that no one was required to do. What that means is hard to count. But it counts. It also provides special meaning to the work every day, and a strong motivation to do it right and efficiently.
Among other things, it’s a humbling daily antidote for cynicism, which is not a recognized public health problem but often seems to be a good candidate.
This year also has provided a clear reminder of the importance of Direct Relief’s apolitical character, non-reliance on government funding, and simply retaining clear focus on the humanitarian purpose of serving those in need.
Direct Relief’s lifeline has been extended in 2016, but it’s been stretched.
To dedicated doctors caring for Syrian refugees in surrounding countries and for people displaced within Syria. To nonprofit community health centers caring for their neighbors displaced by historic flooding in Louisiana and in West Virginia. To always-pressed local organizations in Haiti and other Caribbean nations that were already struggling with the onset of the Zika virus before getting slammed by Hurricane Matthew. These incidents make the news. Most of Direct Relief’s work addresses situations that don’t, but are crises all the same for those in them.
On every day in 2016:
In Liberia and Sierra Leone, where prenatal care services have gone down and maternal mortality has gone up since the Ebola crisis, more than 100,000 expectant or recent moms took a prenatal vitamin that Direct Relief provided.
And across the U.S., thousands of people without insurance or funds were able to take a prescription medication they needed but could not afford — because those medications were provided at no charge by a Direct Relief-supported community health center or clinic.
Direct Relief also provided thousands of cervical cancer screenings and vaccinations against this terrible disease for women in Peru, Haiti, and Nepal.
In addition to providing more essential medical material resources than ever before, this year Direct Relief furnished over $2 million in critically needed financial support to more than two dozen partner organizations, in both the US and internationally, to respond to crises, rebuild damaged facilities, provide training for frontline health workers, and extend care to more patients who lack other options.
Direct Relief is a support organization, but exists only because of private supporters — each of whom is owed the deepest thanks.