In response to the unprecedented destruction and challenges facing survivors of California’s recent wildfires in both Northern and Southern California, Direct Relief boosted its commitment to the relief effort today by announcing it will devote at least $2 million in cash to bolster response and recovery efforts.
The organization last week made its entire medical inventory available for healthcare facilities and patients in the affected areas and has been making daily deliveries of emergency medications, N-95 particulate masks and consumer health products to health facilities, shelters and public health agencies struggling to care for thousands of displaced residents.
Today’s announcement of an increased cash commitment was made in recognition of what is needed for a more expansive near-term effort and as Direct Relief has begun making emergency cash grants available to community health centers and local organizations to complement its deliveries of emergency medical inventories which began immediately after the fires broke out.
Immediate Health Risks
In mass evacuations such as those occurring in California, persons with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes are at risk of acute crisis if they are unable to access their medications. Direct Relief already has been receiving and fulfilling emergency requests for such items and has delivered insulin, inhalers, oxygen concentrators and other medications to health facilities and public health agencies.
In established shelters for evacuees of the Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise, CA, outbreaks of norovirus – the highly contagious virus that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea – are among the immediate health challenges that arose over the past several days and has affected both evacuees and medical staff. Direct Relief made emergency deliveries of requested anti-nausea medications over the weekend, as well as oral rehydration supplies and other over-the-counter medications for those who have fallen ill – and hygiene kits for residents of shelters and other displaced persons.
The organization also has supplied disinfectant products for medical staff and shelter facilities and personal protective gear for environmental health staff.
Direct Relief recognizes that the local nonprofit health organizations with which it is working in the fire-affected areas require financial support in addition to the essential medications and supplies that Direct Relief has been and will continue to provide.
Direct Relief also has begun making emergency cash grants available to its nonprofit partner organizations so that they can continue to fulfill essential services, cover operating and uninsured losses, obtain essential equipment or supplies, and meet the unanticipated expenses that are being incurred during the emergency.
Financial Assistance to Fire Victims
Nonprofit organizations are generally prohibited by law from providing direct financial assistance to individuals. However, nonprofit organizations may provide direct financial assistance persons who are members of a particular, defined class (or classes) of persons who have been victims of a natural disaster or other events (such as a mass shooting) and each member of a class receives the same payment. In prior emergencies, Direct Relief has established and managed such victims funds or managed such funds at the request of other groups and has absorbed all the extensive administrative expenses related to documenting claims and disbursing funds.
At this time, Direct Relief has not been requested to establish a victims fund for the Camp Fire or the Woolsey Fire and has not done so. It is noted here only as a potential activity and use of funds. Should Direct Relief be asked to establish, manage, or participate in a victims fund for classes of individuals affected by the fires, it will do so only if it is determined that the approach is warranted and can be tightly managed in a manner consistent with legal requirements and all donor restrictions.
Other Use of Funds
Direct Relief also is using funds to purchase and deliver requested medications and supplies needed immediately. These purchases have included small-sized N-95 respiratory masks for children to breathe safely in ash-filled air; a new supply of portable oxygen concentrators that enable people with damaged lungs to breathe; and protective gear for people returning to sift through the rubble of their destroyed homes.
In addition to these immediate needs that are being addressed as they arise, Direct Relief anticipates that such items as durable medical equipment and vehicles for patient transport and mobile health services are among the items very likely to be required, based on current assessments and prior experience.
Direct Relief has so far received $837,000 in cash donations specifically for California wildfire relief and will fund the remainder of the $2 million commitment out of its general operating budget.
As always, Direct Relief will use all contributions designated for the California wildfires solely for relief and recovery efforts related to the California wildfires. Direct Relief’s donation policy includes no fine print, disclaimer, or qualification allowing designated funds to be redirected and used for other purposes or in other locations.