Liberian Observer (Monrovia)

22 June 2005

Liberia: One of Liberia's Silent Partners in Aids Fight is a Direct Relief

Direct Relief International in partnership with Liberian-run NGO, Project Momentum, in the U.S., has made two significant contributions to the ELWA and Clay Ashland clinics worth closed to a million dollars this year.

One of Liberia's silent partners in the fight against the deadly HIV Virus has been Direct Relief, an international non-profit sectarian humanitarian assistance organization based in Santa Barbara, California.

The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Organization, Thomas Tighe says the organization's goal is to support and strengthen the hand of those whose work in health is conducted without adequate resources.

"We have access to resources that Liberian doctors, nurses, and other health workers need," says Tighe. The challenge for the organization is to find these health professionals, form a trusting relationship with them, and help them obtain the resources they need to care for their patients.

Locals partnership key

"This is conceptually simple, but in practice the day-to-day practical considerations, such as how to ensure that the materials clear customs without delay and arranging intra-country transportation, can be complicated," Tighe says. "That is why our partnerships with excellent local organizations in Liberia are key."

Founded in 1948 by two immigrant businessmen, Direct Relief International is based in Santa Barbara, California and for 56 years, the organization has provided medical material assistance in the form of pharmaceuticals, supplies, and new and refurbished medical equipment to over 3,000 charitable health facilities worldwide and within the United States.

Unable to get ARVs

The organization's efforts are sometimes hampered by the lack of adequate staffing to cater to those who seek help. "In many areas, the doctor or facility that cares for people living with HIV or AIDS is the same person or facility that is caring for every other conditions," says Tighe.

Tighe says an enormous public policy, public financing question that faces the world involves access to anti-retroviral medicines, which can extend the live of persons living with HIV. "Unfortunately, we have not been able to obtain ARVs, so we are working to support the people and facilities that ultimately will deliver the medications when the larger issues are resolved."

Direct Relief's specialty is in providing medicines, equipment, and supplies to treat patients, but Tighe says the battle against the disease must be joined on many fronts, most notably including educating people on how to stay healthy and preventing the transmission of the virus.

ELWA, Clay Ashland Clinics

Work with AIDS is only a part of Direct Relief's efforts in Liberia. In March 2005, Direct Relief, in partnership with Project Momentum, a Liberian-run NGO in the U.S., made two significant contributions to the health of Liberians worth closed to a million dollars. At ELWA, the hospital received essential medical supplies worth about $509,827. The donations included surgical instruments and supplies, antibiotics, oral dehydration salts, children's cough and cold medicine, wound dressings, and exam gloves. The ELWA is a small, 40-bed hospital about 1/2 hour outside Monrovia staffed by Liberians with the exception of Dr. Rick Sacra, a family practitioner from Massachusetts.

At the Clay Ashland clinic, a shipment of medical supplies totaling $317,687 included hospital beds and mattresses, IV stands, overbed tables, an exam table, baby and adult scales, minor surgical instruments, exam lights, walkers, wheelchairs, stethoscopes, antibiotics, analgesics, oral dehydration salts, first aid supplies, and exam gloves.

The 12-bed inpatient clinic was established to provide free health services to the 10,000 people living in the Droadzille Region of Liberia. Staffed by one doctor and two nurses, the clinic primarily focuses on providing pre- and postnatal care, primary care, and HIV/AIDS testing and counseling. Direct Relief provided the clinic with the equipment and supplies needed to open their doors.

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