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Direct Relief Sends Record 50 Tons of Medical Supplies to Storm-Devastated Philippines

FedEx flies $10 million cargo to Cebu to aid recovery effort in aftermath of typhoon destruction

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LOS ANGELES — On a bustling Saturday afternoon at Los Angeles International Airport, Goleta-based Direct Relief shipped off 50 tons of medical supplies to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines — the largest emergency airlift in the organization's 65-year history.

Neatly packed on 125 pallets, the gear was loaded aboard an MD-11 cargo plane donated by FedEx for the flight to Cebu, where the supplies would be distributed to hundreds of thousands of victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan. More than 5,200 people died in the storm, which struck the Philippines on Nov. 7.

Officials from Direct Relief and their partners from Heart to Heart International were at LAX to monitor the more than $10 million of medical aid.

The critical cargo contains enough medicines to treat 250,000 people, antibiotics, wound care supplies, pain relievers, surgical instruments and hygiene kits. Water purification tablets are included to fight an outbreak of E. coli, and insulin and needles were added for people with diabetes.

Heart to Heart also contributed an additional 125 pallets of emergency medical supplies that included adhesive bandages, batteries, flashlights and tarps.

“FedEx has a 40-year history of giving back to the communities where we live and work, and we’ve had relationships with both Heart to Heart International and Direct Relief for many of those years,” said Parul Bajaj, FedEx senior communications specialist.

“We work with them to be the first responders on the ground any time a natural disaster happens, to provide those life-saving supplies to the communities in need.”

In total, 200,000 pounds of both medical supplies and pharmacists en route to the Philippines will help fill the urgent aid requests from health officials and organizations on the ground in the devastated country, as well as the Direct Relief emergency response team that is working in hard-hit areas.

The typhoon, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, hit just one month after a magnitude-7.2 earthquake killed nearly 200 people in the same region.

Many health facilities in the island nation were damaged or destroyed, and the remaining hospitals are full. In some cases, women and their newborn babies have been forced to share beds because of the overcrowding. Officials say there are approximately 90,000 pregnant women living in the affected areas and 8,000 of them are expected to give birth this month.

“The hospitals were all so devastated and damaged, but thanks to the support of our friends ... they put up some tents, which actually were doing some medical operations and surgeries,” Philippine Consul General Ma. Hellen Barber De La Vega told Noozhawk at LAX.

“Ten million people are affected, and out of the 10 million, 4 million people have been displaced,” said De La Vega, adding that disaster statistics have been changing frequently.

Direct Relief's immediate focus is on building an emergency medical supply chain and strengthening health services for people in need.

Once this critical need is met, a full damage assessment and long-term rebuilding of the health infrastructure can begin in the country.

“We know this is not short term," Direct Relief board chairman John Romo said. "We’re going to be there for quite a while, and we will continue to work with our corporate partners like FedEx to continue to acquire and deliver the medicines and supplies necessary."

Direct Relief is the only U.S. nonprofit organization to obtain Verified Accredited Wholesale Distributor certification by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, and it operates in all 50 states and in 70 countries. The organization has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and a 99-percent fundraising efficiency rating from Forbes magazine, and also received the 2013 President’s Award from ESRI.

“In the time I’ve worked at Direct Relief, I’ve really seen firsthand how generous people are, and that’s really proven true in this situation,” Romo said. “Since the typhoon hit in the Phillipines, we have have rasied $2.7 million-plus, which goes directly to providing medicines and supplies.

"We’ve received that money, which will be put to that use, but we’ve already shipped $8 million worth of medicine and supplies to our partners. It’s just amazing.”

Click here for more information on Direct Relief, or click here to make an online donation. Follow @DirectRelief on Twitter for the latest updates on its emergency response in the Philippines.

Check back with Noozhawk for an upcoming series on Direct Relief in partnership with the Hutton Parker Foundation.

Noozhawk contributing writer Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk and @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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