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Santa Barbara nonprofit sending medical supplies to Ukraine

(Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)
Emergency medical backpacks for Ukraine contain essential supplies for mobile medical care, including triage equipment like tourniquets and wound care supplies.

Direct Relief, a humanitarian nonprofit based in Santa Barbara, is preparing a large shipment of emergency medical response backpacks for Ukraine.

Thomas Tighe, CEO and president, said they are coordinating with Ukraine’s Ministry of Health as well as other organizations in surrounding areas to get aid to the people and places that need it.

“I think they were confident that if we could send the material to Poland, the Ukrainian Ministry would pick it up, clear customs and distribute it wherever it makes most sense,” Tighe said.

He said the country has requested items for trauma care as well as medications.

“They are concerned about the new situation and things like trauma and wound care from the unfolding war and injuries, as well as the pre-existing gaps that existed in the country,” he said.

Tighe said that when war forces people to flee their homes, they become more vulnerable to health problems.

“Just evacuating thousands of people rapidly is in itself a risk factor,” Tighe said. “People have a lot of chronic illnesses that they can manage in a stable environment, whether it’s diabetes or asthma or hypertension and when that is interrupted and people have to flee, those chronic conditions that are usually well managed can become acute crises in relatively short order.”

He said COVID-19, among other illnesses, is a concern especially in refugee situations where social distancing is not possible. He said Direct Relief has ample supply of PPE, test kits, and vaccines if those items are requested.

Direct Relief is shipping 20 pallets of medical supplies and Tighe said they will continue to respond as needed. You can get more information at

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.
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