Puerto Rico’s Continued Struggles Need Sustained Support

Puerto Rico’s Continued Struggles Need Sustained Support

October 13th, 2017

Three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall, Puerto Rico remains devastated, and the island’s families and communities continue to face severely damaged infrastructure, limited resources and post-disaster conditions. The long-term consequences of Hurricane Maria’s destruction are far-reaching and sustained. Figures provided by FEMA and the Government of Puerto Rico indicate that only a small fraction of the island’s infrastructure and capabilities has been restored. For example:

  • Eighty-three percent of Puerto Rico is still without power,
  • Only 392 of 5,073 miles of the island’s roads are open,
  • Only half of the island’s telecommunications services are functional,
  • One-third of inhabitants still lack access to potable water, and
  • Over 5,000 people are still in shelters.

While all of Puerto Rico’s hospitals are open, our aid and relief efforts continue. Currently, only about one-third of Puerto Rico’s hospitals are running on the island’s slowly recovering electricity grid. The remaining hospitals rely on generators, which are both unsustainable and unable to power most medical equipment, meaning only basic procedures and services are available.

Additionally, people on the island’s outskirts face the significant challenge of being without electricity for up to a full year. This sustained lack of power requires a constant and reliable supply of gasoline for generators, which isn’t easy to come by due to blocked or destroyed supply roads. This obstacle has necessitated air deliveries of food, water and gasoline for the interim but more permanent solutions are needed.

Since these outskirt areas lay outside the range of most cell towers, these communities continue to lack communication capabilities. Mail carriers are gathering and distributing crucial information, but the process is slow and can’t meet rapid emergency needs – particularly for the elderly, sick and disabled. For these vulnerable communities, even a minor injury or illness can be life-threatening without reliable access to emergency healthcare services in post-disaster conditions.

Now, more than ever, it’s critical that aid and relief efforts do not falter or fade. Healthcare Ready remains engaged with on-the-ground partners to meet the needs of Puerto Rico’s families and communities. Rx Open remains activated, tracking the operating status of pharmacies across the island, and we continue to update our resources.

Nicolette Louissaint, Ph.D.

Dr. Nicolette A. Louissaint is the Executive Director of Healthcare Ready. Prior to this position, Nicolette served as the organization's Director of Programming. Before joining Healthcare Ready Nicolette served as a Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. During the height of the Ebola Epidemic of 2014, Nicolette served as the Senior Advisor to the State Department’s Special Coordinator for Ebola. Nicolette earned a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, specializing in HIV Clinical Pharmacology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed post-doctoral fellowships at the Johns Hopkins University and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.