SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief is part of the humanitarian network awaiting the green light to send humanitarian aid to war-torn Gaza.
Pallets of critical medical supplies sit boxed and stacked in the warehouse off Wallace Becknell Road, ready to ship out to the Palestinian territories. Much of inventory was packed before the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel.
"We're doing everything we can and trying to do it as we do without regard to the political, intensely political and very emotional time, which is hard," said Thomas Tighe, CEO of Direct Relief. "So, we're hoping we can help the innocent people who are trapped in this event. That's why we exist."
Tighe said for the first time, Israeli groups appealed to Direct Relief for help in the days following the massive and deadly attack, including the CEO of IsraAid, who made a personal trip to the local warehouse on Wednesday.
Getting shipments to innocent civilians through accepted routes is taking intense global coordination.
"IOM, the UN agency that deals with migrants, says the situation remains very dynamic," Tighe said. "Updates are coming every eight hours."
Tighe added that Direct Relief's 75 year history helps. Along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the team is working directly with other global agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO) and longstanding regional partner, Anera. Tighe said the international nonprofit is registered in Israel, present and active in Gaza and the West Bank, Jordan and, Lebanon.
He said once a route is approved by "everybody," Direct Relief will move fast to fly in its shipments.
In the meantime, Direct Relief has committed $1 million in emergency funding to Israel and $100,000 to Gaza to help its partners there with evacuations.
Tighe became emotional while talking about the scope of the crisis.
"The reason Direct Relief exists as a humanitarian group is apolitical. We will do everything we can as a humanitarian group to help people who are caught in these events."
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