For many of us living in the western hemisphere, the past 10 weeks or so have been a blur of nonstop natural disasters. Ten Atlantic hurricanes, two major earthquakes in Mexico and one of the worst wildfire seasons in U.S. history have dominated news cycles and taken up a disproportionate share of organizational activity and donor public focus.
By Lara Cooper
Direct Relief shipments of critical medicines reached several communities in Puerto Rico Sunday, places where access has been a challenge.
Helicopters provided an infusion of help to the community of Utuado, as well as to the island of Vieques. The shipments sent out Sunday amounted to more than $120,000 in donated medicines and supplies.
What was once a neighborhood with a small stream running through it is now a fetid lake that has swamped homes and presents a major health concern for residents.
On Friday, trash floated through the murky green waters that have filled up homes in the Parcelas Selgas neighborhood of Florida, Puerto Rico, a municipality with the same name as the U.S. state and which sits two hours west of San Juan on the island’s north coast.
A parking lot in San Juan turned into a staging area Tuesday morning as about 10 doctors, nurses and administrators gathered between rows of parked cars glistening in the Puerto Rico heat.
Some showed up in scrubs, some in jeans. All were ready to work with patients.
Leading the charge was Dr. Carla Rossotti, a primary care doctor who has been leading medical teams into communities that have had little to no medical care since Hurricane Maria made landfall almost three weeks ago.
By Andrew Schroeder
After the winds and rains of Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico, the island was left in darkness. Electrical power generation was cut for 100 percent of households, cell phone towers went offline, and the airport and other ports closed operations, pending damage and safety reviews. In the days that followed, many municipalities, particularly in the interior, were entirely out of contact.
How severely were they affected? Had the flood waters receded? Were structures still intact?
On Wednesday, Direct Relief delivered a critical shipment of nearly 16,000 doses of insulin to public health agencies in Puerto Rico. The medicine is now being distributed to health clinics and hospitals treating patients with diabetes across the island.
Puerto Rico has the highest rate of diabetes in the U.S. with 15.3 percent of the population being diagnosed with the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The devastating hurricanes that swept through the Caribbean last month called for a significant humanitarian response, and Direct Relief has been working to equip local healthcare providers with key medicines and medical supplies since they first made landfall.
Direct Relief today committed an initial $250,000 in cash for community health centers in Puerto Rico to aid recovery efforts in Hurricane Maria’s aftermath. Direct Relief also committed $50,000 to support the work of La Asociación de Salud Primaria de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico’s primary care association, which represents the 20 member nonprofit corporations that operate 62 clinical sites in 53 municipalities and care for nearly 350,000 patients annually.
A shipment of life-saving medicine for children with hemophilia was delivered to a Puerto Rico hospital on Thursday, just hours before the hospital anticipated running out.
Direct Relief staff brought doses of Factor VIII and IX, drugs that aid clotting in people with hemophilia.
At the time of the delivery, staff at the University Pediatric Hospital in San Juan estimated they had between 24 and 72 hours until their supply of the drug was depleted entirely.
Thousands of residents have been evacuated as two volcanoes, one in Indonesia and one in Vanuatu, threaten to explode.
About 11,000 people living on the island of Ambae, part of the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, have been ordered to evacuate by boat due to threat of explosion. Smoke billowed up from the volcano on Thursday, and officials said that the volcano had become increasingly active over the past week.
By Andrew Schroeder
The real risks in Puerto Rico have only just begun.
By Meghan Dhaliwal
Norma Soberanes was at a funeral, along with many of her neighbors in the village of Hueyapan, Morelos, 30 miles south of Mexico City, when last Tuesday’s earthquake struck.
As they lowered the body into the earth, the ground began to shake furiously. The chapel crumbled, sending stone and concrete flying. “Right there, by the church, that’s where we were hit hardest,” Soberanes remembers. “When the cupola fell, it crushed his body completely. Even I’m still here hurting here” – she ran her fingers over her left shoulder – “from where some concrete hit me as I ran.”
Even as communication remains limited to Puerto Rico in Hurricane Maria’s aftermath, the first wave of medical shipments are leaving Direct Relief’s warehouse, bound for the island, where the need for essential medicines is high.
Staff are in contact with the Puerto Rico Department of Health, Emergency Operations Center and the Puerto Rico Primary Care Association, a network of federally qualified health centers.
Around midday on Friday, the Mexican Diabetes Association opened its tent, donated by Direct Relief, at the edge of Pushkin Park in Mexico City, where free glucose tests, doses of insulin, and free teeth cleaning (diabetes is closely linked to dental and periodontal health) were provided for anyone in need.
Now that the Hurricane Maria has passed, the island’s residents are being confronted with incredible damage and devastation as they look to begin to rebuild their lives and care for the more than 10,000 people in shelters – both local residents and those evacuated from surrounding islands in the wake of to Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane Maria, a category 3 storm, is passing over Puerto Rico. Winds as high as 115 mph have uprooted trees and heavy rain is causing major flooding throughout the island’s interior.
The storm is expected to leave widespread structural damage in its wake, and the entire island was reportedly without power on Wednesday afternoon.
The loss of power presents a range of health risks. Patients on dialysis and other forms of life support are at grave risk if their medical equipment powers down.
A magnitude 7.1 earthquake has struck central Mexico, collapsing buildings and creating havoc in the capital and nearby communities. More than 75 people are already confirmed dead and those numbers are expected to rise with people still trapped and seeking emergency medical attention.
After weathering Hurricane Irma just days ago, residents in the Caribbean are bracing for yet another potentially destructive threat gathering strength in the Atlantic.
Hurricane Maria has intensified to a Category 3 storm and is expected to gain strength to a Category 4 before making landfall in Puerto Rico on Wednesday. Maria’s first landfall is expected to occur Monday night on the islands of Dominica and Martinique.
JUCHITÁN DE ZARAGOZA – A tropical storm on Mexico’s southwestern coast has just been upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane. Hurricane Max made landfall in Mexico’s state of Guerrero on Thursday afternoon, moving slowly inland. According to the Associated Press, Max has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), is located about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east-southeast of Acapulco and is heading toward the east at 8 mph (13 kph).