Global Aid in Time of Global Crisis

By Giving List Staff   |   November 18, 2022

In 1945, William Zimdin, an Estonian immigrant who had fled fascism to California, dedicated his fortune to sending relief parcels to war-torn Europe, sparking the organization that would eventually become Direct Relief. 

More than 75 years later, Direct Relief provides emergency response and humanitarian and disaster relief to all 50 U.S. states and roughly 100 other nations. Their organization’s work is unabating and often in areas overlooked in the headlines. The Santa Barbara-based nonprofit shipped 27 tons of medicine to Sri Lanka when an economic crisis pushed the island-nation’s healthcare system near collapse. These ongoing efforts across the globe meant that Direct Relief is always ready, with supply chains and partnering organizations ready to respond at a moment’s notice. 

A provider from HOPE Hospital responds to flooding in Bangladesh with an emergency medical pack provided by Direct Relief.

For years, Direct Relief had been working in Ukraine. After the invasion, the organization began receiving requests for items they’ve rarely had to send, everything from body bags to treatments for chemical weapons. Since then, it has shipped more than 900 tons of medical aid to 400-plus hospitals and clinics in Ukraine. Direct Relief has also provided $15.9 million of direct financial assistance, both within the country and to refugees in surrounding areas like Poland and Moldova, for medical essentials such as pharmaceutical prescriptions.

“Before the crisis in Ukraine started, we were already delivering medications to the Ministry of Health in Ukraine. When the war started, we didn’t have to start from scratch and try to figure out who to work with; we already had a really clear channel of how to get medicines into Ukraine,” says Heather Bennett, vice president of partnerships and philanthropy.

To generate support for Ukraine, Direct Relief has had to get creative in its fundraising, with efforts ranging from a Carnegie Hall concert hosted by Richard Gere, to partnering with Epic Games, who donated two weeks of revenue and subscriptions from the video game Fortnite – a total of $27 million – to Direct Relief and four other nonprofits.

Direct Relief is supported purely by their contributors and any donated funds can be directed to a specific program or area. Take a look at where and what crises are happening in the world. Given its vast range of geographical regions they serve and medical causes they support, there’s a good chance Direct Relief is already there with boots on the ground, continuing their legacy of aid. 


Direct Relief

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(805) 879-4934
Vice President, Partnerships and Philanthropy: Heather Bennett


Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.

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I’m Ukrainian American and my parents were Ukrainian refugees who met at a displaced person camp at the end of World War II. I just have to say a big thank you to Direct Relief for all the work that you are doing over there. I know Direct Relief does so much all over the world, but this means so much to me. I so much appreciate and admire Direct Relief and thank you for all that you do.
Ana A. Taras
Chief of Strategic Development,
Ryan Health

The Power to Save Lives

Many vaccines and other medications need to be refrigerated, something severely complicated amid war and natural disaster. Recently, Direct Relief installed almost 1,000 Tesla solar panels with both battery and generator backup at their headquarters in Santa Barbara to store insulins, vaccines, and other temperature-controlled medications, even during power outages. But the healthcare facilities that receive these lifesaving medicines also need reliable power.  

Now, with the Power for Health initiative, Direct Relief is helping these facilities install solar power arrays, complete with battery storage. They have already begun installing backup power systems in high-risk areas, including the Mendocino Health Center and Marin Community Clinic.

Direct Relief plans to continue these installations throughout California and other high-risk regions with 20 more sites in development. The average cost is $400,000 per system, which is rated to last 20 years. Supporting the Power for Health initiative can help ensure that these facilities continue to operate when the community needs them most. 

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