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In a Year of Responding to Health Crises, Direct Relief Tops 2019 Charity Lists


Ratings Awards

Medical aid arrives in the Bahamas in the days following Hurricane Dorian. (Courtesy photo)

Direct Relief has delivered $1.17 billion in humanitarian medical assistance to disaster victims and underserved communities worldwide so far in 2019 – more than ever before in the organization’s 71-year history.

The $1.17 billion in aid is more than a seven-fold increase from the $149 million Direct Relief provided in 2009.

Since Jan 1, 2019, Direct Relief has shipped 19,726 deliveries – 62% more than the 12,161 shipments provided in 2018 – to 1,808 locally run health care providers in 97 countries, including $167 million in aid to communities in 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Direct Relief’s crucial role in supplying humanitarian medical aid worldwide in 2019 has earned broad recognition by charity watchdogs and rating agencies.

In February, Fast Company magazine named Direct Relief to its list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2019, a recognition Direct Relief also received in 2015. Fast Company cited Direct Relief in part for its work transitioning Puerto Rico’s health centers to solar-powered smart grids designed to be resilient in future natural disasters; and its pioneering work with Facebook using anonymized location information to determine the movement of people fleeing California wildfires, guiding how Direct Relief distributed breathing masks.

Direct Relief delivered more than 19,000 medical shipments in 2019, the majority of which originated at the organization’s Santa Barbara headquarters, pictured here. (Photo by Donnie Hedden for Direct Relief)

Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, reaffirmed Direct Relief’s four-star rating for 2019, the ninth consecutive time that Direct Relief has earned this top distinction, and awarded it a 100% score for Accountability & Transparency. Charity Navigator also included Direct Relief in its 2019 recommendation lists of “10 of the Best Charities Everyone’s Heard Of,” “Highly-rated organizations providing aid and relief” for victims of Hurricane Dorian, charities still working on “Ongoing Recovery in Puerto Rico” two years after 2017’s Hurricane Maria, providers of “Relief after Tornadoes in the Midwest” and “California Wildfires,” and more.

Others recognizing Direct Relief in 2019 include CharityWatch (Top-Rated Charities) and the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at University of Pennsylvania (2019 High Impact Giving Guide.)

According to Forbes, Direct Relief last year ranked as the seventh largest U.S. charity, scoring 100 percent in fundraising efficiency (percent of private donations remaining after fundraising expenses) and 99 percent for its charitable commitment (charitable services as a percent of total expenses.)

Hurricane Dorian

Medical supplies arrived at Rand Hospital, located on Grand Bahama, in the days after Hurricane Dorian swept ashore and caused catastrophic damage. (Andrew MacCalla/Direct Relief)

When one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic devastated entire islands in the Bahamas, Direct Relief sprang into action. Since Sept. 1, the organization has distributed $5.9 million worth of medical aid weighing more than 113,000 lbs. to the Bahamas, making it the largest post-disaster provider of donated medicines and medical supplies to the island nation.

The scale of the destruction of public and private infrastructure is immense. Direct Relief will remain deeply involved in helping the Bahamas recover, as it has in Puerto Rico since 2017’s Hurricane Maria. Among its projects, Direct Relief is working closely with the University of Miami and the Bahamian Ministry of Health as part of a medium to long-term health recovery plan on the Abaco Islands.

California Wildfires

N95 masks leave Direct Relief's warehouse bound for the Santa Rosa Community Health Center Friday, which is located in Sonoma County, where the Kincade Fire is burning and creating air quality issues for residents. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)
N95 masks leave Direct Relief’s warehouse bound for the Santa Rosa Community Health Center,  located in Sonoma County, where the Kincade Fire created air quality issues for residents. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

As the Kincade Fire torched more than 120 square miles in Northern California, the Getty Fire and other wildfires impacted communities across the state. The blazes dangerously compromised air quality for many residents, and Direct Relief distributed more than 140,000 N95 masks, which filter out 95% of very small (0.3 micron) particles, along with respiratory medications, oxygen concentrators, back-up power systems and hygiene kits.

Hours after Direct Relief delivered 50 Emergency Medical Packs to Ventura County’s Medical Reserve Corps, the Maria Fire broke out, forcing about 8,000 people to evacuate. The Medical Reserve Corps, which provides medical aid during large-scale local emergencies, was activated that night and sent to a nearby shelter to provide aid, immediately putting to use their new packs, which include the medical supplies most commonly needed in emergency response.

Yemen and Syria

Direct Relief sent a 40-ft. container of specifically requested medical supplies worth $200,000 to be distributed to the Ministry of Health and two major public hospitals in Taizz, Yemen. The shipment contained emergency health kits, diabetes medications, antibiotics, water purification tablets, and oral rehydration salts to prevent and treat cholera.

In Syria, Direct Relief since 2015 has provided nearly $150 million worth of critically needed medicine and medical supplies to dozens of charitable NGOs and medical facilities throughout Syria and in neighboring countries where Syrian refugees reside.

Ebola Outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo

In August, Direct Relief shipped a 13-pallet donation, weighing almost 5,000 pounds, to the DRC, filled with critical personal protection equipment, including coveralls, masks, tents, bandages, reflective vests and first aid tape. Direct Relief has also purchased 26 additional pallets of emergency Ebola personal protective equipment including gloves and gowns, in anticipation of future requests from NGOs and government agencies in the DRC, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.


Insulin is packed at Direct Relief's headquarters before being shipped to health centers impacted by Hurricane Florence. Health Reach Center in Mooresville and NC MedAssist, in Charlotte, both of which provide prescriptions free-of-charge to thousands of North Carolina residents each year, will receive insulin as part of the shipment that left the warehouse on Sept. 19, 2018. The insulin was donated by Novo Nordisk. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)
Insulin is packed at Direct Relief’s headquarters before being shipped to health centers across the United States. Expanded storage capacity at Direct Relief’s headquarters has allowed an exponential amount of cold chain-reliant medications to be distributed globally. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

Last year, Direct Relief opened its new headquarters and warehouse, along with a new cold chain facility. The refrigerated room, funded by BD, has been a portal to a new world of capability for Direct Relief, greatly expanding the organization’s ability to deliver medicines that require constant refrigeration. This, in turn, has already given tens of thousands of people around the world access to lifesaving insulin for controlling diabetes, vaccines for fighting a myriad of diseases, and advanced treatments for rare genetic disorders.

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