Keeping the Lights on

Without access to emergency supplies, Puerto Rico’s hospitals are running increasingly low on medicine, as well as food and drinking water. With so many survivors exposed to toxic debris and contaminated floodwaters, new patients with hurricane-related illnesses are arriving every day at overburdened medical facilities. While doctors and nurses have worked around the clock to provide needed care, dwindling supply levels are greatly undermining their efforts.

With power outages across the island, Puerto Rico’s hospitals have run on generators for several weeks. Because of widespread fuel shortages, these emergency power sources are often unable to power essential medical devices such as ventilators and X-ray machines. Patients who need routine dialysis, for example, are receiving reduced treatments at a real risk to their own health, since the diesel that powers dialysis machines must be rationed.

The federal government is working to take pressure off of Puerto Rico’s hospitals by installing generators, dispatching Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, setting up mobile hospitals, and sending in the USS Comfort, a medical treatment ship. However, because of a lack of communication on the ground, many survivors don’t even know how to access these services.

Building Shelter from the Storm

A broken supply chain isn’t just a logistical nightmare — in the case of a humanitarian crisis, it’s a matter of life and death. In Puerto Rico, it’s seriously slowed recovery efforts over the past few months, with disastrous results. As the commonwealth rebuilds, it will need to reconstruct and reinforce its infrastructure so that the humanitarian supply chain won’t fail if disaster strikes again.

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