Ongoing medical aid deliveries depart for storm-affected US communities

The recovery is just beginning for many communities in several states still reeling from a multi-day storm that brought tornadoes and flooding.

In Alabama, at least 11 tornadoes touched down in 17 counties, according to the National Weather Service. Five deaths have been reported as a result of these storms, and more severe weather is expected this weekend. In Georgia, an EF4 tornado with winds of up to 170 miles per hour passed through the town of Newnan, killing one person and damaging homes and buildings. And in Tennessee, at least three deadly tornadoes in the state and severe flooding in the city of Nashville occurred over the weekend as that city experienced historic levels of rainfall.

Immediate response

Direct Relief has issued an offer of emergency medical assistance to more than 300 partner health facilities in the region and has since been coordinating several medical dispatches. The most requested items from Direct Relief’s inventory included emergency medical backpacks, personal hygiene kits, over-the-counter products and personal protective equipment, or PPE.

Several health facilities in Georgia, including the Coweta Samaritan Clinic, reported that phones and electricity were down. Last week, this medical facility received three shipments of medical aid containing a variety of chronic disease medications and medical supplies.

Emergency response shipments continue to be requested and prepared for dispatch.

On Tuesday, medical aid left for the Hardeman County Community Health Center, a federally licensed health center in Bolivar, Tennessee. Further shipments will continue this week as requests come in from affected communities. Several emergency medical shipments were sent to Charis Health Center in Nashville, which included Covid-19 supplies such as pulse oximeters, inhalers, nutritional products, personal hygiene items, personal protective equipment and over-the-counter products.

Over the past two weeks, more than 60 shipments containing more than $316,000 worth of drugs and medical supplies have departed for Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, with support from FedEx, as part of continued ongoing support from Direct Relief to US health centers and free clinics. .

Not all communities deal with disasters in the same way

Based on decades of emergency response and preparedness, Direct Relief has learned that different communities experience and recover from disasters very differently.

“The degree to which a community exhibits certain social conditions, including high poverty, low percentage of vehicle access, or overcrowded households, can affect that community’s ability to prevent human suffering and financial loss in the event of a disaster. says a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describing its column on social vulnerability.

One way to gauge this is to use the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, which measures 15 social factors, including unemployment, minority status and disability. Other factors that make a community more socially vulnerable include higher percentages of households with older adults, young children, and those who speak a first language other than English or live in overcrowded housing.

Southern regions of the United States are ranked highest on the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, which measures dozens of factors that can impact a community’s ability to survive and rebound from natural disasters. Dark blue areas measure more for social vulnerability. (Direct relief map)

With areas of higher social vulnerability concentrated in many places in the southern United States, a region that also experiences significant weather-related disasters each year, social vulnerability can be a powerful indicator for emergency responders. and health officials as to where the needs might be greatest.

This storm season is complicated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which could spread further as people are displaced from their homes. Health officials have also expressed concern about declining Covid-19 vaccination rates in states like Alabama and Georgia, which may also add additional health considerations for those who already have medical needs. .

Storms recorded in the last seven days are recorded in orange on this map in several states.  (Direct relief map)
Storms recorded in the last seven days are recorded in orange on this map in several states. (Direct relief map)

For example, Jefferson County, Alabama, which suffered storm damage last week, also has a moderate to high level of social vulnerability. The county has a higher percentage of racial and ethnic minority residents than Alabama as a whole, as well as a higher percentage of households who speak a language other than English. These factors are among several included in the index that can indicate how a community may experience the effects of a disaster and how quickly it is able to recover.

Places like Jefferson County, Alabama, which includes Birmingham, have a moderate to high level of social vulnerability.  Direct Relief is preparing medical shipments to health partners in the region.  (Direct relief map)
Places like Jefferson County, Alabama, which includes Birmingham, have a moderate to high level of social vulnerability. Direct Relief is preparing medical shipments to health partners in the region. (Direct relief map)

Direct Relief remains in communication with health officials and emergency responders in these states and will continue to respond to requests for assistance.