Direct Relief was named a finalist in Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards announced today, recognized in the Pandemic Response category for providing tens of millions of pieces of personal protective equipment, free-of-charge, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Fast Company magazine separately named the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa (CAF-Africa) a finalist in the Pandemic Response category. Since August 2020, CAF-Africa has committed and delivered more than 66 million pieces of medical PPE for almost 500,000 community health workers in 18 African countries. Direct Relief provided $10 million in funding to secure and purchase the PPE amid a global shortage of supplies, and obtained transportation from the manufacturers in Asia to Africa.
Fast Company’s annual awards honor the businesses, policies, projects, and concepts that are actively engaged and deeply committed to pursuing innovation when it comes to solving health and climate crises, social injustice, or economic inequality.
“There is no question our society and planet are facing deeply troubling times. So, it’s important to recognize organizations that are using their ingenuity, impact, design, scalability, and passion to solve these problems,” says Stephanie Mehta, editor-in-chief of Fast Company.
Even before the novel coronavirus appeared, Direct Relief was the first large humanitarian organization to invest heavily in manufacturing N95 masks, which it distributes every fire season to fire fighters, first responders, and wildfire evacuees.
As a result, at the beginning of 2020, the world’s largest supply of N95 masks in charitable hands was housed in Direct Relief’s headquarters. The organization had just completed a large-scale response to the 2019 Australia wildfires, and had replenished its supply in anticipation of an active California fire season in 2020.
Starting in January 2020, Direct Relief recognized that if Covid-19 were to spread globally, it would lead to tremendous demand for PPE. Direct Relief worked to get ahead of the pandemic by boosting its inventory of PPE, identifying and sourcing the medicine hospitals would need, and procuring diagnostic and respiratory equipment, such as pulse oximeters, oxygen concentrators, and ventilators.
Since sending its first shipment of PPE and emergency medication in response to Covid-19 on Jan. 27, 2020, Direct Relief has provided more than 77 million N95 and surgical masks, 14 million exam gloves, 3 million face shields, and hundreds of thousands of other Covid-19 related items to hospitals and clinics across all U.S. states and territories and more than 90 countries.
A panel of eminent Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners and finalists for the World Changing Ideas Awards from a pool of more than 4,000 entries across transportation, education, food, politics, technology, and more. The 2021 awards feature entries from across the globe, from Brazil to Denmark to Vietnam.