2020: A Year Defined by Crisis and Nonstop Crisis Response

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Nov. 17, 2020—As the end of 2020 approaches, Direct Relief is working harder than ever to bring essential medicine and medical resources to communities that otherwise lack access, in the United States and around the globe.

2020 saw the unprecedented confluence of a deadly global pandemic with natural disasters around the world. The year saw the largest wildfires ever recorded in the Western U.S. and Australia, 12 named tropical storms hitting the U.S. mainland, man-made humanitarian disasters in Beirut and Yemen, earthquakes in Puerto Rico, and an ongoing epidemic of opioid overdose deaths.

In response to the unrelenting catastrophes, Direct Relief in 2020 worked on more fronts than ever before in its 72-year history. Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 13, Direct Relief delivered medical aid worth $1.1 billion (wholesale) in 55 U.S. states and territories and more than 90 other countries. It also provided more than $34 million in cash grants to help America’s community health centers and free clinics continue providing vital services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Direct Relief’s Covid-19 Response

In January 2020, Direct Relief was one of the few non-profits prepared to make a substantial and immediate impact on the crisis with a large supply of PPE that it distributed to safety-net health clinics, hospitals and public health agencies around the U.S. and globally.

As a result, Direct Relief has emerged as the largest charitable provider of PPE globally, delivering more than 43 million masks, 7 million gloves and millions of other PPE items free-of-charge to health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Direct Relief has also provided safety-net health facilities in 55 U.S. states and territories with more than $34 million in direct financial assistance. These funds have helped nonprofit healthcare providers sustain operability, establish telehealth offerings, and expand services to include Covid testing.

Direct Relief’s early identification of expected intensive care medication needs made it an important source of scarce medications during the worst phase of the crisis. Its pre-packaged modules of ICU medications were requested by and delivered to the most advanced hospitals, from Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital to University of Miami Hospital.

Direct Relief played a lead role in organizing and funding the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa, which is working to meet the PPE needs of up to one million community health workers serving over 400 million people. Past epidemics, including the West African Ebola crisis, have shown that disruption of essential health services often leads to higher mortality rates than the epidemic itself.

Direct Relief and partners in the Covid-19 Mobility Data Network created the first functional model for using digital mobility data to guide real-time emergency response activities. The Network advised public health agencies on social distancing, testing and other measures, from the office of California’s governor, to the NYC Department of Health, to the national health services in the UK, South Africa, India, Thailand, and Australia.

Global Emergency Response

United States

  • Western States: The 2020 wildfire season has been one of the worst on record in California and Colorado, and severe wildfires have devastated swathes of Oregon and Washington as well. In response, Direct Relief has sent 187 emergency shipments containing more than 300,000 respirator masks and other wildfire-specific medical items to 88 health centers and public agencies in fire-affected areas.
  • Puerto Rico: In response to a series of earthquakes, a drought, and flooding, Direct Relief has provided $8 million in material assistance and more than $4 million in emergency funding to 93 local health organizations across the island. Since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, Direct Relief has provided Puerto Rico institutions with more than $100 million in funding and material support.
  • Gulf Coast: The Gulf Coast has seen a record-breaking storm season, with 12 named storms making landfall on the U.S. mainland. In response, Direct Relief has provided affected communities from Texas to South Carolina with more than $6 million in emergency aid.

Middle East

  • Lebanon: After a deadly explosion ripped through Beirut in August, Direct Relief partnered with FedEx, Cargolux, and the American Task Force on Lebanon to airlift $11 million worth of medicines, medical supplies, and PPE to the stricken city. Direct Relief also granted $550,000 to Lebanon-based organizations and hospitals caring for survivors in Beirut.
  • Yemen: Direct Relief airlifted a large supply of life-saving medicine and medical equipment to Yemen, arriving as Covid-19 spread through a country whose health systems have been deeply disrupted by five years of civil war. The shipment included 20 ICU Critical Supply Modules, each with medications and supplies selected to treat up to 500 critically ill patients, along with 150 oxygen concentrators, five ventilators, and large quantities of PPE.

Central America & The Caribbean

  • Honduras/Nicaragua: Ahead of Hurricane Eta's landfall, Direct Relief pre-positioned medicines and supplies for immediate deployment with the WHO’s Pan American Health Organization. In the storm's wake, Direct Relief dispatched an additional $10 million in essential medicines, supplies, and PPE to Honduras and Nicaragua, and coordinated support for rescue teams assisting remote communities stranded by severe flooding and landslides.
  • Bahamas: Since Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas last year, Direct Relief has become the largest charitable provider of medical aid to the island nation, providing more than $8.1 million in aid, including 1.4 million defined daily doses of medicines. Direct Relief also funded and coordinated major restorations of primary referral hospitals and the construction of new medical clinics, and has provided large quantities of PPE to ensure the country was prepared for Covid-19.

Ongoing Public Health Initiatives

  • Opioid Crisis: Direct Relief, with support from Pfizer, provided 594,000 vials of the overdose reversal drug naloxone to recipients in 46 U.S. states.
  • Maternal Health: Direct Relief assembled and delivered midwife birthing and replenishment kits to facilitate 30,000 safe births across Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
  • Cancer Treatment: Direct Relief this year delivered more than 3.2 million defined daily doses of oncology drugs, valued at more than $79 million (wholesale), to countries where these advanced treatments are often unavailable.

  • Diabetes Care: Direct Relief delivered 36.5 million defined daily doses of diabetes medication, including insulin for 14,000 children with Type 1 diabetes, across 20 countries.

Transparency and Accountability

  • In 2020, Direct Relief again earned distinction as one of the fewer than 1% of the 9,000 charities rated by Charity Navigator to receive a “Perfect 100” rating for both Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency.

About Direct Relief

A humanitarian organization committed to improving the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies, Direct Relief delivers lifesaving medical resources throughout the world to communities in need—without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay. For more information, please visit

Tony Morain
VP Communications, Direct Relief
(530) 574-5707

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