Direct Relief are an international aid organisation working to improve the health and livelihoods of people affected by poverty and emergencies.
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Virgin Unite have been working with Direct Relief to deliver critical medicines and supplies to people in need – supporting the struggling health system and responding to the urgent needs of the initial BVI recovery phase.
Hurricane Irma (and later Maria) ripped a devastating path through the Caribbean – the effects were shocking, even to those who are trained and experienced in the world of emergency response. Virgin Unite and Unite BVI found ourselves in an unexpected role, providing emergency relief support.
The catastrophic damage resulted in a desperate and immediate need for medical supplies across the islands. With hospitals and pharmacies down, people had no way to get critical medications like insulin and anti-seizure drugs. Injuries resulting from the hurricane also needed to be urgently addressed. We reached out to Direct Relief immediately for help. Direct Relief an incredible network and a well-proven model for getting donated medical supplies into disaster hit areas.
Responding specifically to the emergency situation on Tortola, the Direct Relief team galvanised, organising an airplane from Miami to deliver seven pallets of urgent supplies for Peebles Hospital. This was no mean feat, with only one airline making unscheduled flights from Antigua to Tortola during the aftermath of the hurricanes.
“The devastation on the island was overwhelming and complete. Almost nothing was spared. There’s no power (which when we arrived we discovered quickly affects people’s ability to access any cash, let alone pay with credit card). There was also very little fuel available. Roads are washed out and impassible. Damage to vehicles, boats, and houses is extensive. Cars and boats were flipped over, containers strewn about, and houses had nearly complete roofing loss, “said Andrew MacCalla, the Director of International Programs & Emergency Preparedness and Response at Direct Relief.
After landing and unloading the plane, Direct Relief was able to get the British Royal Air Force to take the pallets – in Puma 2 choppers’ under-sling nets – to the hospital. The Direct Relief team were fast and efficient and managed to complete the pallet drops in three trips. I am in awe of the team – they are nimble and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure medical supplies and contacts are on the ground in disaster zones.
All of the staff at Peebles Hospital were extremely grateful for the support, the Deputy Minister of Health expressing high praise for Direct Relief’s work-model, which allowed the hospital to order only what they needed – a rarity in post emergency aid response.