On Saturday, September 20, Direct Relief coordinated efforts among Clinton Global Initiative members to airlift 100 tons of medical supplies from New York City to West Africa to help fight the Ebola outbreak crisis. Andrew MacCalla, Director of International Programs and Emergency Response for Direct Relief, shares some insights on how and why Direct Relief took initiative to coordinate these efforts.
Aid efforts to increase the flow of resources into Ebola-affected areas have been limited by several factors that have arisen since the outbreak’s spread: commercial passenger and cargo flights have been severely restricted, prices have spiked on the few remaining commercial transport options, and the affected countries have by necessity diverted existing health budgets to combat the crisis, deferring essential action on other health priorities.
Ebola’s effect on regional supply chains is mirroring that of natural disasters – the distribution pipeline for medical essentials has contracted when it should be expanding.
The Need to Act Now
In light of the growing crisis, depleted medical inventories in the Ministries of Health central supply, and specific requests made by long-time partner organizations on the ground, Direct Relief made the decision to charter a 747 aircraft, which exceeded the donations received by the organization at the time.
Direct Relief partnered with CGI members that include Last Mile Health, Wellbody Alliance, BD, Abbott, Abbvie and Merck to make a Commitment to Action to airlift the largest single emergency shipment to date from the U.S. to West Africa. We are grateful to have been recognized at CGI this week alongside other members who issued commitments in response the crisis.
The shipment, the eleventh from Direct Relief to Ebola-hit regions since the outbreak began, contained 9.8 million defined daily doses of medications; enough rehydration solution (40,200 liters) to supply two Ebola wards for one year; and enough coverall gowns (170,000), masks (120,000), and gloves (2.8 million) to meet the annual needs of approximately 280 health workers.
Greater Effectiveness through Partnership
Recognizing the critical role of public-health protocols and institutions in public health crises of such magnitude, Direct Relief coordinated with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Ministries of health in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and ensured each item and quantity in the airlift was specifically requested and shared with respective national Ebola task force members.
In Liberia, the supplies will support the excellent work of Last Mile Health and all 680 medical facilities per a distribution plan carefully developed by the Ministry of Health and the Clinton Health Access Initiative. In Sierra Leone, more than 200 health facilities including longtime-partners Wellbody Alliance and Medical Research Centre (MRC) per a distribution plan developed by MRC and the national Ebola task force.
Continuing to Mobilize
At Direct Relief, we recognize the importance of collaboration between medical professionals and organizations on the ground who are working around the clock to combat this disaster. We will continue to mobilize medical resources and work with CGI members, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and communities to ensure the right medical supplies get to where they’re needed most.
Want to get involved? Learn more and visit us at DirectRelief.org.