Direct Relief

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Direct Relief
Founded Santa Barbara, California, U.S.
August 23, 1948 (1948-08-23)[1]
Founder William D. Zimdin, Dezso Karczag [2]
Type Charitable Organization[1]
Legal status 501(c)(3) organization[1]
Focus Disaster Preparedness and Relief Services[4]
Humanitarian Aid[4]
Public Health[4]
Coordinates 34°26′14″N 119°50′36″W / 34.43734°N 119.8432121°W / 34.43734; -119.8432121Coordinates: 34°26′14″N 119°50′36″W / 34.43734°N 119.8432121°W / 34.43734; -119.8432121
Area served
Key people
Thomas Tighe, President and CEO[1]
John Romo, Chairman of the Board of Directors[1]
$898 million [5]
59 full-time[6]
Formerly called
Direct Relief International

Direct Relief (formerly known as Direct Relief International) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a stated 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."[1]

The organization is headed by a 31-member Board of Directors and President and CEO Thomas Tighe.[6] Tighe came to Direct Relief from the Peace Corps, where he served as chief-of-staff and chief operating officer from 1995-2000.[7]


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.[2] In 1948, Zimdin formalized his efforts with the establishment of the William Zimdin Foundation.[8] 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.[8] The organization assumed the name "Direct Relief International" in 1982, and "Direct Relief" in 2013.[9]

Direct Relief was the first nonprofit organization in the United States to be designated by 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.[10]


Between 2000 - 2014, Direct Relief's operating budget averaged roughly $11 million.[11] Over the same period, Direct Relief reported delivering more than $1.6 billion in medical resources and supplies throughout the U.S. and the world - a ratio of $36.00 in aid for each $1.00 in operating cost.[12] Medical supplies from Direct Relief come largely through in-kind donations by hundreds of companies such as Ansell, Abbott, BD, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and generic pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Direct Relief manages logistics and distribution through enterprise systems that include SAP, Esri, and Palantir, and with in-kind transportation support from FedEx.[4][11][13][14]

Emergency Preparedness and Response[edit]

Relief Efforts[edit]

April 2015 Nepal earthquake

  • In response to the Nepal earthquake, Direct Relief immediately mobilized and delivered via FedEx charter 118,000 pounds of medical aid, which included 6.2 million defined daily doses of medications.[15]

Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa

  • As of February 2015, Direct Relief delivered 40 shipments of medical aid worth $25 million to roughly 1,000 hospitals and clinics in Liberia and Sierra Leone.[16]
  • 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.[17]

Hurricane Sandy

  • In addition to supporting community clinics, non-profit health centers, and other groups in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy with medical supplies, Direct Relief helped guide response efforts by mapping pharmacies, gas stations, and other facilities that remained in the New York City area despite power outages.[18]

2010 Haiti earthquake

  • In the six months following the Haiti earthquake, Direct Relief provided more than 400 tons of emergency medical assistance worth more than $57 million to Haitian health care facilities, international medical teams, mobile medical clinics, tent-based hospitals, and medical units at camps for displaced people throughout the country.[19]

Use of Technology[edit]

  • Using Esri technology, Direct Relief launched a Global Aid Map in 2011 to visualize channels of aid and medical material distributed during emergencies in real time, and to provide a better visibility into how, where, and how much assistance the organization distributed.[20]
  • Working with Palantir Technologies, Direct Relief has used communications data integration systems to coordinate and enhance emergency response during critical moments following a disaster.[21] Direct Relief has also used civil unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to respond to disaster.[22]
  • Working with technology companies Palantir and Esri, Direct Relief pre-positions medical supply modules with safety-net health facilities in socially vulnerable areas, flood zones and hurricane paths along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, the Caribbean, Central America, and the Philippines.[23] Direct Relief supplies the Hurricane Preparedness Packs with donations from individuals, pharmaceutical and medical corporations, and through a long-standing relationship with FedEx.[24]

Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) packs[edit]

  • To help address community health needs during emergencies, Direct Relief provides Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers throughout the U.S. with emergency medical packs that were designed in collaboration with the California Emergency Medical Services Authority (Cal EMSA).[25]

Disease Prevention and Intervention[edit]

Cancer screening and treatment[edit]

  • In 2013, Direct Relief launched a program in partnership with Basic Health International to screen and treat women in Haiti for cervical cancer.[26] Cervical cancer claims the lives of more than 266,000 women annually, with 87 percent of deaths occurring in resource-poor settings, and Haiti has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world.[27]

HIV prevention and treatment[edit]

  • Direct Relief operates the world's largest HIV rapid test kits distribution for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV.[28]

Maternal and child health[edit]

  • Direct Relief provides midwife kits to hospitals and midwifery schools in Sierra Leone, Somaliland, and Nepal, so that skilled midwives have the resources they need to successfully implement their life-saving skills.[29]
  • 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.[30]
  • In July 2011, Direct Relief, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and The Fistula Foundation, developed the Global Fistula Map[31]—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.[32]
  • In 2012, Direct Relief teamed up with Last Mile Health to launch a Childhood Pneumonia Program in Liberia.[33] 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.

Charity reviews and awards[edit]

  • Charity Navigator ranks Direct Relief No. 1 in its 2015 list of “10 of the Best Charities Everyone's Heard Of," and a four-star charity with a 99.94/100 charity score overall/[34]
  • Fast Company (magazine) named Direct Relief among "The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies Of 2015 In Not-For-Profit,[35]"
  • 2015 - Forbes gave Direct Relief a 100% fundraising efficiency rating[36]
  • 2014 - Chronicle of Philanthropy named Direct Relief California's largest international relief organization,[37]
  • 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.[10]
  • 2011 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation.[42]
  • 2004 - NGO Monitor said that Direct Relief International stays true to its mission statement of being purely a humanitarian organization and not getting involved with politics.[43]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Charity Navigator - Direct Relief
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ "GuideStar Exchange Reports for Direct Relief". Retrieved December 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Guide Star - Direct Relief, retrieved 11/7/2014
  5. ^ "Audited Financial Report FY 2015" (PDF). Direct Relief. Retrieved 10 December 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Charity Review, Direct Relief". Better Business Bureau. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Guidestar Staff (August 2014). "Guidestar Exchange Report". GuideStar Nonprofit Directory. GuideStar USA. pp. People & Governance. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  8. ^ a b MARTELLE, SCOTT (19 May 2002). "A Medical Supplier Without Borders". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Meagher, Chris (21 June 2013). "Direct Relief Drops 'International' from Name". The Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Cervenka, Rachael (June 3, 2013). "Oklahoma tornadoes: California-based nonprofit donates medical supplies". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ Wood, Max. "28 Worthy Charities and Causes". AskMen. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  13. ^ Carr, David (3 July 2014). "Hurricane Arthur Vs. Data Visualization: Supplies Riddle". InformationWeek. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  14. ^ Michelle Corbet (May 11, 2015). "FedEx delivers nonprofit relief supplies to Nepal". News Report. Memphis, Tennessee. p. 2. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Michelle Corbet (May 11, 2015). "FedEx delivers nonprofit relief supplies to Nepal". Nepal Earthquake Response. FedEx. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  16. ^ Joe DeCapua (February 10, 2015). "Shifting Focus in Ebola Countries". News / Africa. Washington, D.C. Voice of America. p. 1. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  17. ^ CGI Members, Direct Relief Ship Medical Supplies to Fight Ebola, retrieved 10/3/2014
  18. ^ Gina Potthoff (October 13, 2013). "Mapping Technology Helps Direct Relief Pinpoint Its Assistance One Disaster at a Time". Noozhawk. Malamute Ventures LLC. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  19. ^ Esri Staff (2014). "Interactive Map Helps Speed Aid to Haiti" (PDF). Case Study. Esri. p. 1. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  20. ^ "Direct Relief Scales GIS to Serve Those in Need Around the World". Directions Magazine. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  21. ^ "Hurricane Sandy Disaster Response". 
  22. ^ Nosta, John. "Move Over Amazon, Direct Relief Is Already Making Life-Saving Deliveries". Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  23. ^ "Calm before the Storms: Direct Relief Employs Data Analytics and Visualization Technologies to Expand Global Hurricane Preparedness". 
  24. ^ "Direct Relief for the People Who Need It Most". 
  25. ^ "State Partnership- California Direct Relief USA" (PDF). 
  26. ^ "Basic Health". 
  27. ^ "GlobalCan 2012". 
  28. ^ "Direct Relief GuideStar Exchange Charting Impact Report" (PDF). 
  29. ^ "Direct Relief Maternal & Child Health" (PDF). 
  30. ^ "Partnering to Improve Maternal Health and Access to Obstetric Fistula Treatment". 
  31. ^ "Global Fistula Map". Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  32. ^ "Direct Relief Women Celebrate Mother's Day with Benefit in Support of Maternal, Child Health Care". Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  33. ^ "Last Mile Health Partners". Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  34. ^ "10 of the Best Charities Everyone's Heard Of". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  35. ^ Fast Company Staff (February 10, 2015). "The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies Of 2015 In Not-For-Profit". Fast Company Magazine. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  36. ^ "The 50 Largest U.S. Charities, Direct Relief". Forbes. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  37. ^ 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. 
  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 International: Profile of an Apolitical Medical NGO." NGOMonitor. 15 March 2004. 8 October 2017.

External links[edit]

Official website