On September 19, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean. The hurricane destroyed much of the island’s key infrastructure, buildings and homes.
An emergency response team from Israeli NGO IsraAID, including professionals from its established team in Haiti, arrived in Puerto Rico earlier this week.
Based on its assessment of immediate needs, the team’s first priority was distributing and setting up water filters in the most affected places, and training local people how to use them effectively.
In addition, the Israeli team is distributing food and hygiene kits to the lowest-income neighborhoods.
Natalie Revesz, head of IsraAID’s mission in Puerto Rico, described the scene, “The island is in complete ruin. There are wrecked cars all over the streets, boats washed onto land, many trees destroyed and felled, and electricity pylons upended, with cables scattered everywhere. The lack of electricity has also hugely impacted Puerto Rico’s clean water supply, and many areas now have no or very limited access. People in the streets are worried and shocked; there is a tremendous feeling of confusion and uncertainty.”
One of the few international aid agencies on the island, IsraAID also is offering post-trauma psychological first aid to displaced residents and is training local volunteers in how to provide such first aid.
Currently more than 11,000 Puerto Ricans are staying in temporary shelters on the impoverished island. IsraAID reports growing concerns for the physical and psychological impact on the elderly and other vulnerable groups.
“Our emergency response team is working very closely with local organizations and communities, including leaders from the Jewish community, to assess the most acute, immediate needs. IsraAID remains committed to supporting individuals, families and communities worst-affected by Hurricane Maria,” said Yotam Polizer and Navonel Glick, IsraAID co-CEOs, in a statement released Thursday.
They said that the team will continue to monitor immediate needs and assess mid- to longer-term needs.
Over the past month, IsraAID volunteers also have been among other Israeli relief organizations assisting people affected by hurricanes in Mexico, Texas and Florida. Since its inception in 2001, IsraAID has responded to crises in 41 countries, and has ongoing programs in 14 countries.