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Maui Wildfires: Six Months Later

More than 25 tons of medical aid have been provided in response to the Maui wildfires over the past six months, and more than $2.5 million in financial assistance has gone to health providers and first responders offering services to impacted patients.


Hawaii Fires

Healthy Mothers Health Babies Coalition of Hawai'i visits Royal Lahaina Hotel, one of many sites used as temporary housing for displaced residents after the Maui wildfires. (Brea Burkholz/Direct Relief)

Six months ago, devastating wildfires swept through the town of Lahaina, leveling hundreds of structures and killing at least 100 people. Recovery continues today, with many still living in temporary housing, attending relocated schools, and obtaining medical services at health facilities operating in temporary or mobile settings.

Since the fires started on August 8, 2023, Direct Relief has sent more than 25 tons of requested medicines and medical supplies, including vaccines, insulin, inhalers, emergency medical backpacks, and personal care items, to 22 organizations, amounting to $1.8 million in wholesale value.

Medical aid departs for local organizations responding to the Maui fires on August 17, 2023. Project Vision, the Maui Humane Society, Imua Family Services and Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawai’i were all included in the shipment, which contained N-95 masks, requested medicines, emergency medical backpacks, and portable coolers for temperature-sensitive medications. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

Financial Summary

The information included in this report, by necessity, includes unaudited figures because the organization’s formal audit coincides with its fiscal year, which is from July 1 to June 30. Audited figures for this period will be included when that audit and report are completed. Numbers are as of Feb. 6, 2024.

Who Donated to the Response?

In response to the crisis, Direct Relief received contributions from 13,338 donors totaling $5,368,632 from individuals, foundations, businesses, and organizations located in 21 countries. Donations from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and two territories were received.

Of the total amount of Maui wildfire-response designated contributions —
$2,971,659 was contributed by 13,244 individuals
• $1,457,170 was contributed 47 businesses
• $908,083 was contributed by 33 foundations
• $31,720 was contributed by 14 organizations

How Were the Funds Used?

Of the total Maui wildfire response-designated cash contributions received to date, Direct Relief has expended or committed $3,935,922 to improve the health and lives of people affected by the disaster.

This includes:

  • $2,550,000 on financial assistance to organizations supporting emergency response
  • $804,231 on procurement of field medic packs and other supplies
  • $456,427 on emergency personnel costs and other organizational response management expenses
  • $125,264 on transportation (paid and pending)

Consistent with Direct Relief’s Donation Policy, 100 percent of funds received for specific emergency events are devoted entirely to those events, and none of the funds donated for Maui wildfire response have been used for fundraising.

(As explained here, all Direct Relief's fundraising expenses are paid by the Direct Relief Foundation, which uses earnings on previously received bequests to the organization for this purpose and other non-programmatic costs.)

Medical Material Assistance

Damage seen on Maui after catastrophic, wind-driven fires swept through the area. (Brea Burkholz/Direct Relief)

Direct Relief’s wildfire response support can be divided into three categories: medical material assistance, direct financial assistance and information assistance.

Direct Relief’s main objective in any large-scale disaster response is to safely and securely deliver emergency medical resources – requested, approved by the responsible government authority, and appropriate for the circumstances – where they are most needed, as fast and efficiently as possible.

Direct Relief medical aid arrives on Maui following the devastating wildfires on August 8, 2023. (Brea Burkholz/Direct Relief)

Direct Relief leaned into pre-existing relationships to begin immediate support. In the first few days of the wildfires, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, a grantee through Direct Relief’s Fund for Health Equity, reached out for assistance with medicines and supplies. This resulted in the first shipment of field medic packs for triage care as the group sent medical providers into Maui from neighboring Oahu.

As recovery continued, Direct Relief began to channel requested aid into ongoing shipments. As of Feb. 6, 2024, Direct Relief’s Maui wildfire response efforts have resulted in the delivery or pending delivery of 123 shipments of requested medicines and medical supplies, including vaccines, insulin, inhalers, emergency medical backpacks, and personal care items, worth about $1.8 million, wholesale, to 23 organizations.

Supporting Public Health Efforts with Cold Chain Logistics

Over the past six months, Direct Relief’s relationships with local groups, its strong partnership with corporate donors, and its ability to securely deliver large quantities of medical goods – including temperature-sensitive products that require the use of cold-chain supplies and technologies – have resulted in the organization becoming a targeted channel for the delivery of medical goods to benefit people in Maui recovering from the fires.

Direct Relief continues to fulfill requests, including shipments of Covid vaccine in coordination with Hawai'i's Department of Health. Direct Relief became the primary distributor and logistics partner for the Hawai’i State Department of Health’s vaccination campaign and health fair for individuals and families affected by the fires. (Direct Relief first established a partnership with the Department of Health during pandemic surges and shipped specifically requested PPE during that response.)

Malama I Ke Ola staff provide Direct Relief-provided Covid vaccines at a health fair in Maui. (Courtesy photo)

Direct Relief has since supported 13 healthcare providers in Hawai’i with Covid, flu, RSV, pneumococcal, and tetanus vaccines, along with portable refrigerators, freezers, and temperature monitoring devices, inventory readily on-hand, to support cold-chain storage and distribution within the island more completely.

Protecting Residents Returning to Burn Areas

Direct Relief has responded to numerous wildfires and has often been asked to help minimize potential re-entry activity-related hazards. This was also the case in Maui for residents returning to burn areas. After fires, impacted areas may contain unstable structures, sharp metal objects, and ash with potentially toxic substances, so having protective gear and equipment is of critical importance. Direct Relief became the sole provider of PPE and reentry supplies for the Department of Health in the weeks following the fires.

To support safe reentry for Lahaina fire-impacted property owners and residents, beginning in September, Direct Relief fulfilled a state Emergency Management Agency request for 20,000 PPE re-entry kits.

Residents sift through properties in Maui as re-entry occurs in burn zones from last month's devastating fires. Direct Relief-provided protective gear, including body suits, gloves, masks, goggles and more, was distributed to residents to protect them from ash and chemicals resulting from melted plastic, drywall and more. (County of Maui photo)

Direct Relief shipped PPE items to Maui, which were assembled into kits by local volunteer organizations on the island. The kits included coveralls, shoe covers, nitrile gloves, work gloves, protective goggles, and N95 masks. Direct Relief also shipped specifically requested chemical-resistant gloves and P100 masks to the Department of Health for people who needed additional protection.

The kits were made available when people registered for entry passes and have been distributed by nonprofit organizations such as Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies.

After the first 20,000 kits, the Maui District Health Office (state Department of Health) requested an additional round of reentry kits for distribution through the end of 2023.

Direct Financial assistance

Thanks to the outpouring of financial support from donors, Direct Relief continues providing cash assistance to help facilities and organizations effectively respond to the ongoing needs of patients impacted by the wildfires.

To date, Direct Relief has supported groups working in Maui with $2,550,000 in funding to strengthen response, recovery, and resiliency efforts and continue to support local, community-based organizations that have established relationships with the community, collaborate with other nonprofit organizations on the island, and demonstrate a long-term commitment to support those impacted by the wildfires.

Recipients of the funding include Maui Search and Rescue, Malama I Ke Ola Health Center, Hui No Ke Ola Pono, Project Vision Hawai'i, and Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawai'i.

Information Assistance

In addition to providing medical material and financial aid, Direct Relief has been a critical information supplier to key organizations involved in the response. Working with technology companies, academic institutions, and health providers, Direct Relief has used human mobility data, geospatial analysis, and other data collection and analytics instruments to help understand key issues.

The organization’s data-driven tools, such as wildfire mapping applications and the CrisisReady initiative in partnership with Harvard, offer insights into wildfire risks and social vulnerability. Direct Relief and CrisisReady produced several reports monitoring population displacement caused by the fires, which were shared with first response agencies to inform resource allocation and situation reports.

Corporate Support

Direct Relief was able to supply a large array of medical material support without the expenditure of donor funds due to product donations from healthcare manufacturers and distributors, many of which Direct Relief works with on an ongoing basis.

Healthcare company donors responded expansively to requests for their participation. Included among them are 3M, Abbott, AbbVie, Accord Healthcare, Apotex, AstraZeneca, Barebones Living, Baxter International, Becton Dickinson, Boehringer Ingelheim, Chartwell, Elevance Health, Eli Lilly & Company, Embecta, Genexa, Haleon, Hikma, Kaleo, Kenvue, Liquid IV, McKesson Medical-Surgical, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi, Teva, Unilever, and Viatris.

Direct Relief also received financial support through other companies and campaigns, including the Bungie Foundation, Humble Bundle, FedEx, Holland America Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Corporation & plc Foundation, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, and Yardi Systems, among others.

Looking Forward

As the response continues, Direct Relief remains able to provide support as a result of its existing strong relationships with local groups that were already receiving Direct Relief medical product shipments and ongoing work with medical experts with community knowledge around requests.

Each of these groups has an unwavering commitment to their communities – before, during, and in the recovery phase of the wildfires – and Direct Relief will support their work as Maui continues to recover.

The road to Pohaku Park, Maui.

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