Strengthening Resilience in Vulnerable Communities
Today, we're faced with the stark reality that natural disasters are more frequent and more devastating than ever, leaving many — particularly those in the most vulnerable communities — in a constant state of crisis. According to the UN, climate-related disasters have increased more than 80% over the last four decades. 2020 set a new record for economic impact in the U.S.: 22 separate disasters caused $95 billion in damages, with the greatest impact caused by the most active hurricane season ever.
The COVID-19 pandemic posed additional challenges, introducing a host of new obstacles when preparing for and dealing with hurricanes – with overburdened hospitals and health systems, social distancing requirements and increasing food and economic insecurity making a challenging time even more difficult.
With an expected range of 13-20 named storms in 2021, the U.S. is anticipating another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – with Florida, Texas and Louisiana among the regions that are most vulnerable to hurricanes.
New Initiatives Help Build Year-Round Resilience
This year, we are ramping up our longstanding commitment to ensure communities are better prepared when disaster strikes.
Abbott and the Abbott Fund are implementing new targeted disaster resilience strategies to help prevent and mitigate the impact of hurricanes on communities in New Orleans, Dallas, Orlando and Puerto Rico — all areas where Abbott has established partnerships. Key efforts include:
- Funding for food banks and community health clinics to strengthen their capacity to mitigate disasters, including investments in infrastructure and systems such as generators, wireless hot spots and cold storage, staff training and emergency protocols.
- Support for food banks to address child hunger and meet ongoing nutrition needs for families, with direct funding, product donations and employee volunteering where possible. These efforts include programs that send kids home with food for themselves and their families on weekends and during school breaks.
- Employee blood drives in Orlando, Dallas and Puerto Rico will help strengthen local blood supplies all year – and when disaster strikes, employees will be ready to quickly step up to meet local needs.
Ongoing Work to Prepare for Hurricane Season
These new actions build on our history of pioneering work to help communities prepare for hurricane season. Starting in 2006, we launched efforts with Feeding America® and Direct Relief to better prepare for hurricane season by storing nutrition and healthcare products at clinics and food banks in high-risk areas. These "disaster relief packs" are designed to proactively get the right products, to the right places – before a disaster hits. Ready to be used within hours, the packs provide the first wave of aid until traditional relief efforts arrive and provide ongoing support.
Food Banks on the Front Lines
Abbott and Feeding America have provided nutrition disaster relief packs to local food banks in areas at risk of hurricanes, including Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Texas. Designed to be given directly to families affected by disasters, the packs can meet immediate nutritional needs for three days. Tailored to different family sizes, the packs contain Abbott nutrition products for children and adults, including Pedialyte® rehydration solutions, Ensure® and PediaSure® nutrition drinks and ZonePerfect® bars. Altogether, 4,000 packs will provide rapid nutrition support for 12,000 people.
The packs will be stored at food banks in key locations, ready for use in hours after disaster strikes.
Community Clinics Meet Urgent Needs
This year, Abbott will continue working with Direct Relief to provide supplies for disaster relief modules that are sent to 78 health clinics that provide community medical care across the U.S. Southeast and Gulf Coasts, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In the first year of the partnership in 2006, the Direct Relief modules contained only Abbott products. Today, the modules also include donations from many other healthcare companies, providing clinics with the key first aid supplies and medicines they need to treat 100 patients for three to five days after a hurricane hits.
Longstanding Relief & Recovery Results
Over the past 15 years, when hurricanes hit communities across the U.S., health clinics and food banks across the region have been prepared for the flood of water – and the flood of requests for aid. Thanks to the disaster relief packs, nearly 660,000 people had access to needed nutrition and healthcare.
In addition to the targeted disaster resiliency and prep programs, Abbott also is a longtime supporter of disaster relief efforts around the world. Over the past decade, Abbott and its foundation the Abbott Fund have provided more than $50 million in funding and products to help meet both immediate needs and support long-term recovery efforts. In recent years, this included a rapid response to earthquakes in Chile, China, Haiti, Mexico, Nepal and Puerto Rico; typhoons and flooding in India, the Philippines, Southeast Africa and Vietnam; and hurricanes across the U.S. Gulf and East Coasts.
"We're dedicated to continuing and evolving the critical partnerships we've established with local food banks and clinics over the years, so that families continue to have access to resources during challenging times in their communities," said Suki McClatchey, director of global citizenship, Abbott. "Over almost two decades, we've learned that a reactive response just isn't enough to ensure the safety and health of these communities. Our approach targets the underlying and ongoing needs of community health systems so we can take a more proactive approach to preparedness.