You Can Only Do in Emergencies What You Do Every Day
Residents of Ixtaltepec, Mexico, gather whatever they can salvage from their fallen homes after an earthquake rocked the region in 2017. (Photo by Nadia del Pozo and Felipe Luna for Direct Relief)
Since 2004, when the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami struck 14 countries bordering the coastline, Direct Relief has continued to provide aid and logistical assistance to governmental and nongovernmental organizations in dozens of countries around the world, with some of the largest efforts occurring in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Haiti, Japan, Nepal, and Mexico. In each case, those affected have faced the difficult set of tasks involved in moving from acute emergency response to recovery to rebuilding, often with significant obstacles along the way.
As Direct Relief has worked in these countries, the organization has established relationships with local community groups, nongovernmental organizations, and corporate partners around the globe. Those affected are in many cases the first to pitch in when others are later in need, as they have learned hard lessons firsthand about how to survive and recover in quakes’ aftermath.
An Indonesian town was one of many devastated by the 2004 tsunami that swept through the region.
When an earthquake subsequently struck Jogjakarta, Indonesia, in May 2006, for instance, Direct Relief was able to offer assistance in the area, drawing upon experience addressing conditions after the 2004 quake. Similarly, when 7.6 magnitude and 6.6 magnitude quakes struck Sumatra, Indonesia, within a matter of hours on September 30 and October 1, 2009, Direct Relief was able to leverage existing connections to partners and other non-governmental organizations. Staff reconnected with Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s largest civic organization; Yayasan Bumi Sehat; the Sumba Foundation, which provides primary care on the island of Sumba; and Australian Aid International, a team of emergency-response doctors specially trained in field medicine who travel from their base in Melbourne, Australia. Direct Relief established deep partnerships with all of these organizations in the aftermath of the 2004 quake. Then on April 6, 2010, just months after a damaging earthquake struck Haiti, the organization again reached out to partners in Indonesia to offer assistance following a 7.7 magnitude earthquake off Sumatra.
Equipping Hospitals and First Responders
When earthquakes of large magnitude strike, Direct Relief staffers immediately go to work, contacting partners and government agencies in affected areas to assess needs and ensure any hurdles to providing aid are quickly cleared. In some cases, the organization is able to leverage existing stocks of supplies to help with the first earthquake relief efforts, such as the emergency modules that are pre-positioned in vulnerable areas at the start of each hurricane season.
Once Direct Relief is able to assess initial needs, corporate partners’ generous material donations of medications, medical supplies, and other requested supplies and equipment are quickly assembled at Direct Relief’s Santa Barbara, California, warehouse, ready to be airlifted to community health partners in affected areas. Direct Relief frequently coordinates with partners including FedEx, the World Food Programme, the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service, and other services to provide airlift capabilities and logistical support.
Medical aid bound for Nepal is staged before being loaded onto a FedEx plane in 2015. (Photo by Ivan Castaneira for Direct Relief)
Establishing New Partnerships and Building for the Future
In the devastating aftermath of an earthquake, Direct Relief not only coordinates with existing partners in affected areas, but also actively seeks out new partners for urgent and ongoing efforts. Direct Relief moves rapidly to establish funds and provide grants to organizations working toward recovery in the hardest-hit areas, bolstering the capabilities of those who best understand the needs and strengths of their communities. Recovery is too often an arduous process, especially when earthquakes are followed by adverse weather events, including hurricanes. Wet conditions for those living outdoors in tents can lead to life-threatening outbreaks of diseases like cholera, endangering residents who have already been displaced from their homes.
In a large-scale earthquake response, Direct Relief will frequently partner with two dozen or more organizations, ensuring needs are met from multiple angles. Once acute care has been provided for, above and beyond sourcing and distributing medication and medical supplies, Direct Relief will frequently work with local community partners to undertake efforts such as training new health-care workers, getting mobile medical units on the road, improving sanitation at camps for displaced persons, rebuilding medical facilities, rehabilitating and providing prosthetics for those severely injured; and ensuring the health and safety of women during childbirth.
Leveraging Technology and Corporate Support
The generous support of individuals, foundations, and corporate partners allows Direct Relief to deliver aid and critically needed medications and medical supplies to thousands of survivors of earthquakes around the globe. All donations received for a specific earthquake relief effort go directly to assist those affected, from life-saving interventions to planning for the future.