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Direct Relief Donating 60 Million KN95 Masks for Covid-19 Fight in Latin America and the Caribbean

Another 10 million KN-95 masks available to US healthcare providers at nonprofit health centers and clinics



BYD N-95 masks are staged in Direct Relief's warehouse on Jan. 12, 2022. A large shipment of BYD KN-95 masks will depart for countries throughout Latin America to protect health workers from Covid-19. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

As omicron variant infections explode globally, Direct Relief is donating 60 million KN95 masks to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and support vaccination campaigns in 19 countries spanning South and Central America and the Caribbean.

The donations to the Americas are coming from a purchase of 89 million masks by Direct Relief, among the largest single PPE purchases by a charitable nonprofit. The masks, bought from BYD Co., will fill more than one hundred 40-foot shipping containers.

“Direct Relief continues to do everything it can to mobilize private support and respond to the still-urgent need to protect health workers and members of the public as Covid infections rage, particularly in areas of the US that have had limited access and neighboring countries where public funding is overstretched,” said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe. “We’re deeply thankful for the public support that has enabled this large-scale infusion of high-quality PPE at this critical time.”

Direct Relief has built strong working relationships across Latin America with national health ministries, multilateral organizations and local health organizations.

In Ecuador, Direct Relief is shipping three containers to the Ministry of Public Health, which has informed Direct Relief of plans to use them in vaccination campaigns in rural areas where vaccine hesitancy is higher than in cities.

“The support of your organization has been enormous for us throughout the pandemic,” said Luis Armijos of the National Directorate of International Cooperation and Relations at Ecuador’s Ministry of Public Health.

In Panama, some of the masks will support vaccination campaigns for students and school staff, according to Fundación Unidos por Panamá, Direct Relief’s in-country partner.

In Mexico, 20 million masks have been allocated to INSABI, which provides health care to about 33 million people who fall outside of the country’s Social Security system.

Funding for the 89 million mask purchase came from private donors, including The Coca-Cola Foundation, the global philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Company.

In addition to PPE, Direct Relief is helping transport Covid-19 vaccines to Mexico and other countries throughout the Americas, the most recent delivery of which was a 2.7 million-dose donation from Moderna to the Government of Mexico. In total, Direct Relief has helped ship more than 12 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to the Americas.

Delivering PPE in the US AND Globally

Direct Relief is also reserving 10 million masks for US safety-net health facilities, including Federally Qualified Health Centers and Free and Charitable Clinics.

Another six shipping containers with 5.3 million masks have been allocated to Indonesia. Other shipments are planned for health care providers in Armenia, Fiji, Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank.

Once the latest round of mask deliveries is complete, Direct Relief will have donated nearly 300 million PPE units since the pandemic began.

This includes 228 million protective masks, 93 million of which were donated through CAF-Africa, an initiative supporting community health workers on the frontlines of Africa’s Covid response.

It also includes 950 tons of PPE sent to Brazil – specifically, nearly 9 million Level 1 medical isolation gowns requested by the Brazilian Ministry of Health for facilities nationwide – part of a larger donation of 80 million gowns from McKesson to Direct Relief.

Giving is Good Medicine

You don't have to donate. That's why it's so extraordinary if you do.