The American citizens of Puerto Rico were dealt a devastating blow when Hurricane Maria pummeled the island last week, smashing its infrastructure and leaving millions of people short of food and reliable supplies of drinking water.
In the early hours and days after Maria struck, health workers worked tirelessly to care for the sick and injured in damaged hospitals, clinging to the hope that the generators that powered lifesaving equipment would hold out until FEMA could deliver urgent assistance and NGOs like Project HOPE could begin rolling out their planned responses to the disaster.
Transportation links were severed for days after Maria struck on September 20 and when HOPE’s emergency response team managed to land in recent days, Maria’s impact was felt everywhere.
“The distress is palpable. People are in lifesaving mode, especially Puerto Rico’s doctors and nurses who are working around the clock, while other first responders are trying to reach affected communities as much as they can,” said Chris Skopec, Project HOPE’s Executive Vice President for Global Health and Emergency Response Programs.
Mental health needs are particularly acute in a situation like this but HOPE’s first priorities, Skopec said, are safety, security, and access to basic services. “Of course, we’re mindful of people with pre-existing mental health conditions that have lost their medications and access to care providers, but our focus at this point in time at this acute phase of the response is saving lives and relieving suffering,” he said.
HOPE has a robust roster of medical volunteers prepared to address the needs of communities and health facilities in need of their specialized skills.
Skopec says that the destruction and humanitarian needs are so enormous and will take colossal efforts to help Puerto Rico address the enormous needs created by this disaster.
“It’s all hands on deck time. It’s really going to take a colossal effort on everybody’s part. Puerto Rico will need substantial private sector support and public-private partnerships can play a crucial role after a disaster like this,” said Skopec.
Get news from the field and updates on how your donations are being put to work.
Read and share stories about Project HOPE with your personal network.