In the mountains of Puerto Rico, help is still needed
In communities outside of urban centers, health clinics prepare for the worst as the June hurricane season approaches.
Nestled throughout the lush and winding one-lane mountain roads of central Puerto Rico are small, remote communities still lacking reliable access to power and water, months after Hurricane Maria. With Atlantic hurricane season stretching from June through November, health clinics in these communities are doing their best to prepare for another round of storms that could devastate an already weakened infrastructure.
More than 19,000 people live in the municipality of Comerio, where the median household income is less than $14,000 per year. People here still have no power in their homes. A grant to our partner Salud Integral en la Montaña (SIM) funded materials for mobile vaccine clinics, like this one at a local school.
Our support for the Morovis Community Health Center, located in the central region of the island, funded recovery grants to clinic staff as well as the purchase of a solar power system that serves as a backup to keep the clinic’s six refrigerators running, preserving refrigeration for thousands of dollars’ worth of vaccines and medications in the event of a loss of power.
Gurabo is located in the central eastern area of the island. Our partner NeoMed, which received one of our generators after the hurricane, delivered hygiene kits provided by International Medical Corps in this community of 47,000 people, which has a median household income of $31,000. The clinic serves rural communities in the area, many of which are still without power and water.
Castañer Hospital is located in one of the most remote towns in Puerto Rico, between the municipalities of Lares and Adjuntas. For months after hurricane Maria, the hospital had no municipal power and was running entirely on generators.
Using funds granted by International Medical Corps, the hospital administration is distributing checks to subsidize diesel expenses for 58 staff who still do not have electricity in their homes.
Our grant also funded the on-site washers and dryers for hospital staff and their families. “Just having clean clothes means so much,” said the hospital’s COO, Adrian Gonzalez.
Less than an hour’s drive from the city of San Juan, Caguas is located in the Central Mountain Range of Puerto Rico. Some 130,000 people make their home in this community where the median household income is about $24,000.
Jvonne, a social worker at the Caguas site of our partner Sanos, was one of the recipients of staff grants funded by International Medical Corps. Jvonne showed us her destroyed apartment and explained how she used her grant to replace furniture and other belongings lost in the hurricane.
Vicky works in customer service at a clinic in the rural community of San Lorenzo, run by our partner COSSMA. Struggling to hold back tears as she recalled the day after the hurricane, Vicky described the feeling of powerlessness she felt when she saw the wreckage of her home and her workplace, which was also completely destroyed in the storm.
Like several of our partners, COSSMA chose to support their staff with small grants as a way of bolstering the health system. The grants helped staff handle hurricane-related challenges in their own lives, making it possible for them to come to work and provide service to the community — while trying to recover themselves.
Our partner Migrant Health Center, which operates 11 sites across Puerto Rico, used part of our grant to purchase satellite-communications equipment that enables access to patients’ electronic medical records when internet service is down. At this site in Las Marias, there has been no internet service since Hurricane Maria.
International Medical Corps also donated a generator that serves as the backup power source for Migrant Health Center’s Las Marias site, and provided funding for staff grants at their Mayaguez site so employees could replace such items as bedding, refrigerators and clothes lost in the hurricane.
At Centro de Salud Familiar Dr. Julio Palmieri Ferri clinic in Arroyo, our grant paid for the rehabilitation of this on-site well, which will enable the facility to be be independent of municipal water sources during emergencies such as Hurricane Maria.
With the next hurricane season looming, many people in remote communities are still waiting for things like power, water and funds to rebuild their homes. Our partner clinics in these areas are thinking ahead and preparing for the worst.
With the flexibility to respond rapidly to emergencies no matter where in the world they occur, International Medical Corps offers medical assistance to people at highest risk and builds local capacity, always working to strengthen healthcare systems and promote self-reliance.
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