Since early 2015, a large number of locally acquired cases (estimated to be as many as 1.5 million cases by the World Health Organization) have been discovered in Brazil, where the disease was previously unknown.
Zika developed into a region-wide pandemic as human and mosquito travelers transmitted the disease to more than a dozen more countries throughout the Americas, leading the WHO to label it an international health emergency.
In 2016, Direct Relief established a Zika Fund and worked closely with health officials and facilities in 14 affected countries to fulfill requests for supplies.
Direct Relief’s Zika Response
Tracking Zika by Mapping the Spread
Direct Relief is supporting its global partner network in affected areas with resources such as pain medication, insect repellent, and contraceptives. The organization is in close communication with public health officials and facilities in countries throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and North America, including leading emergency-response staff at national and state associations, health centers, and clinics across the U.S. Supplies have been provided to countries including Argentina, the Dominican Republic, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, El Salvador, the U.S., and Venezuela.
In March 2016, Direct Relief established a Zika Fund with an initial commitment of $100,000 in internal funds, toward which private contributions may be designated. All contributions to the fund are being used to support healthcare facilities in Zika-affected areas, with particular focus on the following measures.
- Maternal and child health: Provide pre- and postnatal resources needed for safe deliveries to support care for newborns.
- Prevention and treatment supplies: Distribute requested supplies, such as insect repellent, IV solutions, medications for fever reduction and pain relief, and contraceptives.
- Support for health facilities: Provide general in-kind and financial support to healthcare providers serving communities, especially in low-income areas, alleviating the strain placed on local health facilities by the surge in patients.
- Data analysis: Direct Relief has developed an online map to consolidate and share the most current reports from Direct Relief’s partners in affected areas, as well as information published by the World Health Organization and other governmental and nongovernmental public health agencies.
When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador in April 2016, Direct Relief made available Zika prevention items such as insect repellent and contraceptives, addressing the increased exposure of displaced populations to the Zika virus.
Neither Direct Relief nor the partners requesting help had anticipated or budgeted for Zika response, so Direct Relief’s commitment of internal funds helped ensure funding for important efforts to get in front of a problem and public health concern that has continued to expand.
Zika funds have been used to boost support to partner organizations providing care in Zika-affected areas in the U.S., as well as Argentina, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Paraguay, and El Salvador.
No Zika vaccine yet exists—responding to Zika’s outbreak and spread involves stepped-up public-health efforts, including vector control of mosquitoes, work to expand public awareness, staff training, and development of treatment protocols.