Direct Relief

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Direct Relief
a rectangle with orange letters spelling 'Direct Relief'[1]
Founded Santa Barbara, California, U.S.
August 23, 1948 (1948-08-23)[2]
Founder William D. Zimdin, Dezso Karczag [3]
Type 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization[2]
Focus Disaster Preparedness and Relief Services[4]
Humanitarian Aid[4]
Public Health[4]
Area served
Key people
Thomas Tighe, President and CEO[2]
John Romo, Chairman of the Board of Directors[2]
$459,328,000 [6]
59 full-time[7]
Website Direct Relief

Direct Relief (formerly known as Direct Relief International) is a private humanitarian non-profit organization with a mission to “improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergency situations by mobilizing and providing essential medical resources needed for their care."[2] Founded in 1948 by Estonian immigrant William D. Zimdin, the organization is headed by President and CEO Thomas Tighe and a 31-member Board of Directors.[7] Direct Relief has received a 100% fundraising efficiency rating by Forbes,[8] been ranked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as California's largest international relief organization,[9] and topped Charity Navigator’s 2014 list of “10 of the Best Charities Everyone's Heard Of.[10]” Direct Relief is the first nonprofit organization in the United States to be designated by The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) as a Verified-Accredited Wholesale Distributor licensed to distribute pharmaceutical medicines to all 50 U.S. States and Washington, D.C.[11]


In 1945, William Zimdin, an Estonian immigrant and successful businessman in pre-war Europe, began sending thousands of relief parcels to relatives, friends, and former employees in the aftermath of World War II.[3] In 1948, Zimdin formalized his efforts with the establishment of the William Zimdin Foundation.[12] Dezso Karczag, a Hungarian immigrant assumed management of the foundation following Zimdin's death in 1951, changed the organizations name to 'Direct Relief Foundation' in 1957.[12] The organization assumed the name "Direct Relief International" in 1982, and "Direct Relief" in 2013.[1]


Between 2000 - 2014, Direct Relief's operating budget averaged roughly $11 million.[13] Over the same period, Direct Relief delivered more than $1.6 billion in medical resources and supplies throughout the U.S. and the world.[14]

Through the use of commercial-grade technologies offered by companies such as SAP, Esri, Google, and Palantir, and partnerships with more than 150 other business that include BD, FedEx, GlaxoSmithKline, and J&J, Direct Relief is able to leverage every dollar raised into $37 (wholesale) worth of medical aid.[4][13][15]

Ranking and efficiency[edit]

Direct Relief operates its programs with exceptional efficiency, with zero percent of donations used for fundraising activities. Direct Relief works closely with more than 200 pharmaceutical and healthcare company manufacturers to receive donations of medical resources—pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, personal care items, and equipment—which are then delivered to hospitals, health centers, and other medical facilities around the world. Because of these corporate relationships, Direct Relief is able to leverage every dollar donated to provide an average of $31 worth of medical material aid specifically requested by partner healthcare facilities to help them better care for people who are vulnerable.

Direct Relief consistently achieves top rankings from the American Institute of Philanthropy ("A"), Charity Navigator ("four stars", number five on “10 Top-Notch Charities”, and number one on “10 of the Best Charities Everyone’s Heard Of”), the Chronicle of Philanthropy ("California's largest International charity", annual ranking in “The Philanthropy 400”), and Forbes ("100% fundraising efficiency"), and Consumers Digest, for its fiscal strength, accountability, and efficiency. Direct Relief has been awarded the Independent Charities Seal of Excellence by the Independent Charities of America for meeting the highest standards of public accountability, program effectiveness, and cost effectiveness. Direct Relief is a member of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance,[16] and is the first associate member of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).

Emergency preparedness and response[edit]

When large-scale disaster occurs around the world, Direct Relief maintains close communication with its partners in the most heavily affected areas to help ensure that partner health facilities receive the resources they need to provide care to those in greatest need. By working closely with its partners on the ground, Direct Relief is able to assess, respond, and prepare for immediate, short-, and long-term recovery during and after disaster. In the Fiscal Year 2008, Direct Relief's emergency response efforts provided health facilities with more than $14 million wholesale in emergency medical support and $1,221,000 in emergency cash assistance.[17]

Ebola outbreak - West Africa[edit]

On 20 September 2014, Direct Relief chartered a 747 filled with 100 tons of supplies for Ebola-hit regions. Valued at $6 million, the cargo of 2.8 million surgical and exam gloves, 170,000 coverall gowns, 120,000 masks, 40,000 liters of pre-mixed oral rehydration solution, and 9.8 million doses of essential medications was the largest single emergency shipment to date from the U.S. to the region.[18]

Hurricane preparedness[edit]

Following Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005, Direct Relief expanded its Hurricane Preparedness Program.[17] This program equips clinics and health centers in vulnerable states along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Seaboard, as well as in Central America and the Caribbean, with medicines and supplies needed before, during, and after a hurricane makes landfall. Since 2007, this program has delivered medical aid modules to health centers and clinics in coastal areas prone to disaster before hurricane season begins. Each module contains enough supplies to treat 5,000 people for up to one month, should a hurricane make landfall. Any medicines or medical supplies not used during hurricane season are absorbed into the local health facility's inventory for regular patient care.

Following Hurricane Sandy, Direct Relief teamed up with Dermalogica Foundation to send personal care kits that contain Dermalogical products, and funded more than $2 million grants and $1.9 million products toward hurricane recovery.[19]

Through the use of powerful data analysis and visualization tools including those offered by technology companies Palantir and Esri, Direct Relief is able to strategically stage the Hurricane Preparedness Packs with trusted safety-net health facilities in socially vulnerable areas and flood zones along likely hurricane paths.[20]

The pre-positioned materials include medical essentials identified as the most critically needed in the aftermath of hurricanes and other emergencies that prevent people from accessing the medicines and care they need.

The Hurricane Preparedness Packs, which comprise more than $1 million in medical resources, are bound for 63 health facilities near the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, the Caribbean, Central America, and the Philippines.

Each U.S. Hurricane Preparedness Pack holds enough medical supplies to treat 100 patients for a variety of conditions, from basic trauma injuries to chronic illnesses, for a 72-hour period, during which follow-on support can be mobilized. The International Modules contain supplies to care for 5,000 people for one month.

Direct Relief first developed the pre-positioned modules for nonprofit clinics and health centers in the U.S. following its extensive responses to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and its subsequent work with the Texas Blue Ribbon Commission on Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Direct Relief is able to supply the Hurricane Preparedness Packs with donations from individuals, pharmaceutical and medical corporations, and through a long-standing relationship with FedEx.[21]

Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) packs[edit]

Direct Relief provides Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers in California with rugged, specially designed backpacks filled with medical supplies to help address community health needs during an emergency. Developed in collaboration between Direct Relief and the California Emergency Medical Services Authority (Cal EMSA),[22] the MRC pack program helps support first responders during local emergencies. Packs are often deployed to other areas throughout the U.S.

Disease-specific health interventions[edit]

Direct Relief supports its partner network by distributing free diabetes and asthma medications and supplies to U.S. safety net clinics across the U.S. Across the U.S., Direct Relief provided 65 of its partner clinics, serving a combination of 670,000 patients annually, with donated insulin, valued at $520,000 wholesale.[23]

Cancer screening and treatment[edit]

In 2013, Direct Relief launched a program in partnership with Basic Health International[24] to screen and treat women in Haiti for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer claims the lives of more than 266,000 women annually, with 87 percent of deaths occurring in resource-poor settings,[25] and Haiti has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world. Direct Relief supports Fondation St. Luc Klinik Manitane, an affiliate of St. Damien’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince, with innovative medical resources designed to screen and treat precancerous lesions in low-resource settings in one visit to the clinic.

Diabetes care[edit]

Direct Relief supports diabetes prevention and treatment programs in Bolivia that target all groups of people, from children with Type 1 diabetes to rural outreach and nutrition services. Direct Relief works closely with its partner, El Centro Vivir Con Diabetes (CVCD) in Bolivia to screen thousands of people for diabetes in outreach campaigns and provide care to new patients with diabetes. Since 1982, Direct Relief has provided over $6.8 million wholesale medical material assistance to Bolivia. El Centro Vivir Con Diabetes has benefited with over $1.3 million of that aid.[26]

HIV prevention and treatment[edit]

Direct Relief provides targeted support to healthcare professionals so they can prevent and treat high-burden diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Direct Relief operates the largest program in the world that distributes HIV rapid test kits to pregnant women and their families in order to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV.[27] They also manage the largest program in the world that delivers medical products to treat opportunistic infections in people living with HIV/AIDS.[27]

In 2007, Direct Relief began distributing free, Abbott-donated Determine HIV rapid test kits. Sixty-nine developing countries are eligible for the program, including Africa, where the burden of HIV is the heaviest.[26]

Strengthening fragile health systems[edit]

Direct Relief is able to work with healthcare facilities in over 70 countries and in all 50 U.S. states and equip them with the essential medical resources they need to provide care to the most vulnerable people in their communities.[28] Direct Relief has expanded resources to over 1,100 community clinics[29] With the high level of in-kind contributions of medical resources, transportation, and other donated goods and services it receives, Direct Relief is able to leverage every dollar raised into $37 (wholesale) worth of medical supplies for healthcare professionals to use in caring for their patients.[28]

Replenishment of medical supplies[edit]

Direct Relief’s Replenishment Program provides a supply of free medications and medical supplies to patients who are uninsured, have an income at or below 200% federal poverty level (FPL), and are a registered patient at a partner health center.

The Replenishment Program works to increase efficiency through a single, streamlined online platform, through which multiple pharmaceutical and healthcare companies participate in a program designed to enhance patient care. By providing a consistent supply of needed medicines, the program aims to strengthen participating health centers, maximize efficiencies in providing donated medicines to patients, and improve the way patients receive medications at clinics and health centers across the country

Dental care[edit]

In its home county of Santa Barbara, Direct Relief operates the Healthy Smiles Program. The program aims to improve the oral health of low-income, uninsured children and families in the community by providing free dental treatment, comprehensive oral health kits, and oral health education. Since 1992, over 60,000 children each year receive a dental kit and instruction, and approximately 120 children in Santa Barbara County each year receive a full range of dental treatment, from cleanings to tooth extractions.[30]

Maternal and child health[edit]

Direct Relief supports midwife-training institutions and health facilities in countries with some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. Direct Relief provides trained midwives with the equipment needed to safely deliver skilled care to ensure the lives of mothers and infants during pregnancy and childbirth. Direct Relief works with partner hospitals and midwifery schools in Sierra Leone, Somaliland, and Nepal, by providing midwifery kits, so that skilled midwives have the resources they need to successfully implement their life-saving skills.[31]

Direct Relief has provided medical equipment and supplies to hospitals and health centers in high-need areas to enable them to initiate or expand their emergency obstetric care services. In 2009, Direct Relief, in collaboration with The Fistula Foundation, increased support to Edna Adan University Hospital to improve the hospital’s ability to provide treatment and care for women with obstetric fistula, one of the most tragic injuries of obstructed childbirth. This support includes the construction and equipping of an operating theater and the development of a training curriculum for midwives and nurses in obstetric fistula management.[32]

Direct Relief’s Fistula Repair Module includes essential medicines and surgical supplies and is provided at no cost to facilities providing fistula repair surgery worldwide. In July 2011, Direct Relief, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and The Fistula Foundation, developed the Global Fistula Map[33]—the first-ever worldwide map of treatment for this devastating childbirth injury—to help better understand the current fistula treatment capacity; more effectively target scarce resources to where they are needed most; and identify where gaps in service may exist. Direct Relief surveyed all health facilities claiming to provide obstetric fistula repair.[34]

Direct Relief is able to provide assistance for a safe birth for both child and mother, and more than 20,000 safe births have been provided with funds raised from events such as the annual Direct Relief Women Mother’s Day Event.[35]

A second form of assistance is expanding emergency obstetric care, providing equipment to suitable health facilities, such as ultrasound machines and birthing beds.

Third, is fighting obstetric fistula that, if left untreated, causes women uncontrollable and constant leakage of feces and urine. An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year.[36] In the past, Direct Relief Women have conducted service trips to Direct Relief partner health-care sites in Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico.

In 2012, Direct Relief teamed up with Last Mile Health to launch a Childhood Pneumonia Program in Liberia.[37] In less than six months of project implementation, the number of children receiving pneumonia treatment per month increased by 91 percent in Liberia’s Konobo District, far exceeding the original goal of 50 percent.


  • 2014 Wireless Innovation Project Finalist - hosted by the Vodafone Americas Foundation, Direct Relief was recognized for its work with Palantir integrating complex communications and data systems to coordinate advanced techniques in immediate disaster response.[38]
  • 2014 CECP Director's Award - Direct Relief was the only nonprofit organization to receive the Directors’ Award from the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, founded by Paul Newman, for their partnership with FedEx. The award highlights major accomplishments between nonprofit organizations and corporations working together toward societal improvement. Since 1993, FedEx and Direct Relief have worked together to deliver life-saving medicines to people in need every day and during times of disaster.[39]
  • 2014 Power of Partnership Award – National Association of Community Health Centers[40]
  • 2013 Esri President’s Award for outstanding geographic information systems (GIS) work for integration of GIS and spatial analysis to identify health condition patterns and medical needs, complex logistical management, and transparent public reporting.[41]
  • 2012 - Accreditation as a Verified-Accredited Wholesale Distributor®, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy – Direct Relief is the first nonprofit organization in the United States to receive this accreditation.[11]
  • 2011 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation [42]

Innovations and technology[edit]

Direct Relief launched a comprehensive Global Aid Map to visualize channels of aid and medical material distribution, and to provide better understanding of specific activity with up-to-date information.[43] The Global Aid Map provides a comprehensive, interactive overview of how, where, and how much assistance is distributed, and enhances transparency and accountability to supporters. In partnership with Palantir Technologies, Direct Relief is utilizing industry-leading communications data integration systems to coordinate and enhance emergency response during critical moments following disaster.[44] By using satellite, cellular, and web-based technologies, users on the ground can input critical health data through streamlined, easily accessible forms. This helps to inform local organizations and hospitals of the most appropriate needed resources, as well as to minimize or prevent future health crises before they occur. Direct Relief also began applying civil unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to respond more efficiently to the most pressing needs of people affected by disaster.[45] By applying new technology during health crises, Direct Relief believes better meaningful information can be gathered more quickly to help more people in need.

Corporate support[edit]

Direct Relief receives support from more than 150 corporations, particularly medical product donors. Direct Relief and its business supporters benefit from innovative corporate giving practices, such as the Johnson and Johnson “produce to give” program, in which J&J manufactures products for the express purpose of making them available to charitable causes that lack financial means to purchase such items, and the GlaxoSmithKline PULSE volunteer program, which matches highly skilled volunteers with positions at Direct Relief and partner healthcare facilities to improve and strengthen their infrastructure.



  1. ^ a b Meagher, Chris (21 June 2013). "Direct Relief Drops ‘International’ from Name". The Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Charity Navigator - Direct Relief
  3. ^ a b Graffy, Neal (January 1, 2010). Historic Santa Barbara: An Illustrated History (1 ed.). San Antonio, Texas: Historical Publishing Network. p. 177. ISBN 9781935377146. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Guide Star - Direct Relief, retrieved 11/7/2014
  5. ^ "GuideStar Exchange Reports for Direct Relief". Retrieved December 16, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Annual Report FY 2014" (PDF). Direct Relief. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Charity Review, Direct Relief". Better Business Bureau. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  8. ^ "The 50 Largest U.S. Charities, Direct Relief". Forbes. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Rauber, Chris (Oct 20, 2014). "Chronicle of Philanthropy: 7 of top 50 U.S. charities are based in California". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "10 of the Best Charities Everyone's Heard Of". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Cervenka, Rachael (June 3, 2013). "Oklahoma tornades: California-based nonprofit donates medical supplies". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  12. ^ a b MARTELLE, SCOTT (19 May 2002). "A Medical Supplier Without Borders". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Brumback, Elijah (November 7, 2014). "The Business of Aid: Direct Relief Adopts a Corporate Strategy". Pacific Coast Business times. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  14. ^ Wood, Max. "28 Worthy Charities and Causes". AskMen. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  15. ^ Carr, David (3 July 2014). "Hurricane Arthur Vs. Data Visualization: Supplies Riddle". InformationWeek. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "". 
  17. ^ a b "Emergency Response" (PDF). 
  18. ^ CGI Members, Direct Relief Ship Medical Supplies to Fight Ebola, retrieved 10/3/2014
  19. ^ "Community Free Clinic of Newport News: Meds ready in case of storm". 
  20. ^ "Calm before the Storms: Direct Relief Employs Data Analytics and Visualization Technologies to Expand Global Hurricane Preparedness". 
  21. ^ "Direct Relief for the People Who Need It Most". 
  22. ^ "State Partnership- California Direct Relief USA" (PDF). 
  23. ^ "Injecting Resources Into Safety-Net Clinics" (PDF). 
  24. ^ "Basic Health". 
  25. ^ "GlobalCan 2012". 
  26. ^ a b "Direct Relief International Annual Report 2008" (PDF). 
  27. ^ a b "Direct Relief GuideStar Exchange Charting Impact Report" (PDF). 
  28. ^ a b "Impact Summary from the Nonprofit". 
  29. ^ "GuideStar Exchange Charting Impact Report" (PDF). 
  30. ^ "Henry Schein Cares Foundation Supports Homeless, Young Mothers, Homebound Seniors, and Migrant Farm Workers in California". 
  31. ^ "Direct Relief Maternal & Child Health" (PDF). 
  32. ^ "Partnering to Improve Maternal Health and Access to Obstetric Fistula Treatment". 
  33. ^ "Global Fistula Map". Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  34. ^ "Direct Relief Women Celebrate Mother’s Day with Benefit in Support of Maternal, Child Health Care". Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  35. ^ [url= "Direct Relief Mother's Day Event"]. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  36. ^ Walker, Melissa. "Direct Relief Women Celebrate Mother’s Day with Benefit in Support of Maternal, Child Health Care". Noozhawk. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  37. ^ "Last Mile Health Partners". Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  38. ^ "Wireless Innovation Project Finalists". Vodofone. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  39. ^ "CECP Excellence Award Winners". Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  40. ^ "Flash Poll: In States Expanding Medicaid, Community Health Centers Report More Patients, Fewer Uninsured". PR Newswire. PR Newswire. Sep 4, 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  41. ^ "Direct Relief Receives President's Award for Outstanding Use of GIS". 
  43. ^ "Direct Relief Scales GIS to Serve Those in Need Around the World". Directions Magazine. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  44. ^ "Hurricane Sandy Disaster Response". 
  45. ^ Nosta, John. "Move Over Amazon, Direct Relief Is Already Making Life-Saving Deliveries". Retrieved 13 December 2014. 

External links[edit]

Official website