Working for my Host organization ( Impact Experience) helped me to widen my site to more just my country’s social issues and our national conflict, during my work I get to make many pieces of research on many marginalized communities who need help, and our role is to find the right way and the right people to help these marginalized communities. So here I’m I thought of sharing with you some of the big challenges that Peurto Rico is facing post the hurricane Harvey.
Six weeks after a brutal encounter with two major hurricanes, approximately 70% of the island of Puerto Rico is still lacking power. The official death toll following Hurricane Maria has risen to 54, however the revelation that the island saw 911 people cremated last month paints a much grimmer picture. The lack of power is not only affecting the island’s ability to recover and restore a quality of life, but it has turned into a life or death situation as medical patients reliant on life-saving medical equipment, are losing their lives due to power failures.
“Before Hurricane Maria hit the island…Puerto Rico’s economy was already reeling from an 11-year recession, and grappling with a historic municipal debt bankruptcy. The island’s public electricity utility contributed to the financial straits because it was seriously outdated, prone to failing, and costly to keep up. It was dependent on oil (imported) and the grid itself was above ground and thus exposed to the elements.
Since Hurricane Maria made landfall, it has been estimated that 80-90% of the homes in Puerto Rico have been either damaged or completely destroyed. “Carlos Mercader, a spokesman for Puerto Rico’s governor, told PBS that in the hardest hit communities on the island, almost all of the houses have been destroyed.”** To further complicate the matter, due to outdated flood zone maps, less than 1% of the island had the necessary flood insurance that would enable them to rebuild their homes.
FEMA has not begun the work of assessing home damage on the island, therefore there is limited grant money available to begin the rebuilding process.
One of the most devastating aspects of a natural disaster, indeed greater than the loss of physical property, is the loss of communities through attrition. As the days go by from the time of impact, hope for a swift recovery slips away and reality begins to set in: people need a way to generate income, to provide for their families and attend to their basic needs.
In the decade before Hurricane Maria hit, approximately 400,000 Puerto Ricans (out of a population of 3.8 Million) left the island in pursuit of better opportunities. “Indeed, Puerto Rico has been experiencing a net population loss since at least 2005, a year before its recession began. However, the trend has been accelerating since 2010 as the U.S. mainland’s economy has rebounded from the Great Recession even as the island’s economy has remained mired in a recession. More recently, the Puerto Rican government has seen its tax revenues decline and, barred by
U.S. law from filing for bankruptcy, it may run out of cash in November. The continued loss of people, particularly school-aged children and those in their prime working age, has only worsened the island’s economic situation and outlook.”**
In the last 46 days, more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans have left for mainland US, and unfortunately, this number will continue to grow.
The back-to-school season didn’t last long this year in Puerto Rico. First Hurricane Irma and then Maria forced schools to close and turned the lives of students and their families upside down.
For some of Puerto Rico’s 345,000 students, the resuming of classes is a major step.
Roughly 3 million Puerto Ricans, or more than 80% of the island’s residents, have no power. Only 120 schools were able to reopen after 5 weeks hurricane, but more than 1,100 public schools on the island, dozens were badly damaged, and another 190 are serving as community centers and more than 70 others are used to shelter families who lost their homes which make it even harder for school to go back and function normally.
More students and family are leaving the island after the storm, and more will leave soon if the government couldn’t do a major improvement about it, the school system already in trouble, but the government doesn’t want put kids back into unsafe schools.