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Santa Barbara non-profit Direct Relief donates millions to help Ukrainians wounded by war

Direct Relief announced $10 million in support for rehabilitation services for wounded civilians and soldiers in Ukraine.
Roman Baluk
Direct Relief
Direct Relief announced $10 million in support for rehabilitation services for wounded civilians and soldiers in Ukraine.

Direct Relief in Santa Barbara has provided medical aid to Ukraine for many years, which allowed them to quickly ramp up assistance when Russia invaded the country more than a year ago.

President and CEO Thomas Tighe is in Lviv, Ukraine, where Direct Relief held a conference to plan for the country’s ongoing medical needs. Tighe said Lviv, located in western Ukraine, is relatively calm, with no rocket attacks in recent weeks, but that’s not the case in the eastern part of the country.

“Where we were, at the rehab hospital, you have a sense of the war because they’re receiving critically injured patients consistently,” Tighe said.

Although exact numbers are not available, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates about 12,000 Ukrainian civilians and many soldiers have been injured since the war began.

Tighe said the health conference was held in an underground shelter with about 300 people including key ministers of the Ukrainian cabinet and that's where he announced that Direct Relief will commit more funds to support rehabilitation care for those wounded in the conflict.

“We are allocating another $10 million of the funds that we have for Ukraine to help strengthen, expand, and support the rehab services, not just in Lviv, but in other areas of the country where people are going to need lifelong care,” he said.

Tighe said the money came to Direct Relief through donors from 90 countries around the world who designated their gifts specifically for Ukraine. The funds will be used to purchase much needed rehabilitation equipment and train medical personnel.

Direct Relief will continue to provide essential medicines to the country in addition to the new funding.

Amid the ongoing Russian aggression, Tighe said he is continually inspired by the pride and courage of the Ukrainian people.

“Imagine a state with fewer people than California trying to defend itself against one of the largest armies with advanced weaponry in the world, under fierce attack every day. It’s extraordinarily difficult,” he said.

For more information or to find out how you can help, visit DirectRelief.org or contact their headquarters in Santa Barbara.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.