Health in a Natural Disaster – How to Help Puerto Rico

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have come and gone, but the destruction of these gigantic weather events remain and will remain through the visible infrastructure damage and the threats to human health.

Breaches at water treatment plants and flooded toxic waste sites in Houston pose hazards to people cleaning up and rebuilding their homes. Water-damaged structures are likely to grow mold, hospitals and medical professionals face closures or running out of resources for those in need of care.

In Puerto Rico, where the electrical grid was nearly wiped out from Hurricane Maria, hospitals are relying on gas-powered generators.  I think it’s really hard, particularly in the areas of US unaffected by these large storms, to imagine the wide-scale damage that has been done. We are very disconnected from the mechanisms that make life comfortable and in some cases, possible. Electricity is something I really rarely think about, same with gas lines, access to fuel, water and food. Cutting off any one of these things would make life more difficult, but dealing nearly all of those things being cut off or made extremely inaccessible that on top of needing specialized medical care (anything from refilling prescriptions, to receiving chemotherapy, to access to a doctor to check out a persistent cough) and needing to rebuild or find a new home are extremely overwhelming. Puerto Rico is facing months of rebuilding efforts to

If you have the means to do so, I encourage you to donate to relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Despite being a US Territory, they are really not receiving enough aid to respond to the magnitude of damage that was done. The longer Puerto Rico goes without an adequate response to Hurricane Maria (and Irma) – the more dire the health of its residents will become.

Money is particularly useful. In-kind items, unless specifically asked for, need to be sorted, inspected, transported and ultimately may be trashed if not useful (clothing donations frequently end up being on the garbage end of donations). If you can donate money, these are some organizations that are doing direct work in Puerto Rico that are particularly focused on health:

 

Climate Change, Hurricanes, and Humans

This Vox video is a really helpful primer on the impact of climate change on weather events. On top of that, Houston is located in a wetland area that has largely been paved over in the last few years, decreasing drainage opportunities. Where water might go naturally into the ground, it’s now sitting on top of tar and the city has filled up like a bathtub.

People are suffering in Houston because of climate change. It is stressful and difficult to deal with homes that have been destroyed, on top of physical risks to health like increased diseases, insects, and injuries.

If you’re looking for places to donate, I urge you to think more locally than large, national relief organizations . Here are links to some people and organizations that will really benefit from any donation, small or large.

Donate: