IsraAID sends emergency response team to Puerto Rico following devastation from Hurricane Maria
As one of the few international aid agencies on the island, IsraAID’s team will distribute emergency relief items, provide water, sanitation and hygiene solutions to ensure access to clean water, and offer post-trauma Psychological First Aid to the many displaced to temporary shelters.
On September 19th, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean. The hurricane destroyed much of the island’s key infrastructure, buildings and homes. In some of the more remote communities, there is now no/very limited access to clean running water, plus shortages of electricity, food and other basic necessities. With currently over 11,000 people, which is increasing daily, in shelters, there are growing concerns for the physical and psychological impact on the elderly and other vulnerable groups. Long an impoverished island, Puerto Rico is struggling with the post-disaster immediate and longer-term needs.
Natalie Revesz, Head of IsraAID’s mission in Puerto Rico describes the scene: “The island is in complete ruin. There are wrecked cars all over the streets, boats washed onto land, many trees destroyed and felled, and electricity pylons upended, with cables scattered everywhere. The lack of electricity has also hugely impacted Puerto Rico’s clean water supply, and many areas now have no/very limited access. People in the streets are worried and shocked; there is a tremendous feeling of confusion and uncertainty. ”
IsraAID’s Emergency Response team, including professionals from our established team in Haiti, arrived in Puerto Rico early this week. Following a rapid assessment of the immediate needs, the team’s first priority was distributing and setting up water filters in the most affected places, and training local people how to use them effectively. In addition, the team is urgently distributing food and hygiene kits to the lowest-income neighborhoods.
IsraAID’s professionals will also provide critical mental health support to those evacuated to shelters, plus train local volunteers in how to provide basic Psychological First Aid. While in crises with large-scale destruction, aid efforts typically focus on practical, physical support, IsraAID emphasises the importance of the mental and emotional rehabilitation of affected populations. Post-disaster, the most vulnerable groups, notably those in shelters, the elderly and children, are at increased risk of suffering with debilitating mental-health conditions, which can have long-term impacts.
“As one of the very few international humanitarian aid agencies on the island, our Emergency Response team is working very closely with local organisations and communities, including leaders from the Jewish community, to assess the most acute, immediate needs. IsraAID remains committed to supporting individuals, families and communities worst-affected by Hurricane Maria.” Yotam Polizer and Navonel Glick, co-CEOs, IsraAID.
The team will continue to monitor the needs of the ground, and plan for mid-longer-term needs.