With the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season officially underway, Direct Relief announced it is pre-positioning emergency medicine and medical supplies in nine vulnerable U.S. states and five Caribbean and Central American countries. Together, the packs include enough supplies to treat tens of thousands of people for trauma or chronic conditions in the aftermath of hurricanes or other destructive weather events.
Fifty of Direct Relief’s nonprofit health centers and free clinic partners in nine states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – will receive one of the packs, which Direct Relief has distributed each year since 2007. Each pack has supplies to treat 100 people for three to five days, and contains a range of items, including antibiotics, pain relievers, inhalers, behavioral health medications, first aid supplies and medications for chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension.
Direct Relief is also distributing hurricane preparedness modules to Haiti, Jamaica, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The international modules are much larger, each containing enough medicine and supplies to treat 3,000 people for one month following a disaster.
Beyond the regions impacted by Atlantic hurricanes, Direct Relief is deploying international hurricane preparedness modules to India, Vanuatu and other countries throughout the Indian Ocean Basin, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.
The extensive pre-positioning effort eliminates delivery delays and enables medical professionals to treat injured or ill patients quickly when an emergency strikes. People who have evacuated their homes often lose access to basic supplies or medicine needed to control chronic conditions like diabetes. In times of emergency, local health centers are often under-equipped to handle the large influx of patients.
Five packs were opened in 2016 in response to Hurricane Matthew and historic flooding in Louisiana. In Ahoskie, North Carolina, the Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center opened a hurricane preparedness pack after Hurricane Matthew hit last fall, flooding their community and severely damaging a neighboring clinic. The clinic saw most of its medical supplies destroyed by flood waters, and was forced to operate out of a mobile clinic for months.
“We shared what we had in the pack to help tide them over and get back to operational,” said JoAnne Powell, a nurse at Roanoke Chowan. After resupplying the neighboring clinic, the health center sent the remainder to the county’s emergency services, which are staffed by volunteers and don’t receive public funding.
Emergency stockpiling efforts often have been abandoned because of the need for ongoing management to ensure quality when emergencies don’t occur. Direct Relief’s program addresses this challenge through annual resupply and by authorizing the materials to be absorbed into clinics’ general inventory to provide care for low-income patients at the end of hurricane season (November 30). The packs have also saved lives during other types of emergencies, including a severe outbreak of cholera in Haiti in 2010.
The Atlantic hurricane season started officially on June 1. On May 25, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center warned of an above-normal hurricane season this year, with 11 to 17 named storms, of which five to nine could become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes, with winds of 111 miles per hour or higher.
Direct Relief developed the hurricane preparedness program following its extensive responses to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and has continued to expand the program in the years since.
Direct Relief is able to supply the hurricane preparedness packs free of charge to safety-net healthcare facilities, thanks to donations from individuals, pharmaceutical and medical corporations, and through a long-standing relationship with FedEx.
Key corporate donors to the program include Abbott, AbbVie, Alcon Laboratories, AstraZeneca, BD, CVS Corporation, Eli Lilly & Company, KVK-Tech, Magno-Humphries Labs, Merck, Pfizer, Sagent Pharmaceuticals, Sanofi Pasteur, Vaseline ® and others.