Providing HOPE in Puerto Rico
It’s been six weeks since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and health needs continue to evolve, ranging from shortages of medical supplies to new and emerging conditions caused by poor sanitation and hygiene.
Project HOPE’s emergency response team has been on the ground since shortly after the hurricane stuck. Comprised of 20 people, including staff and medical volunteers, the HOPE team has worked closely with emergency response actors and local health authorities to conduct needs assessments and respond appropriately. HOPE has been providing health services, conducting WASH activities, and distributing critical supplies and medications.
Providing Mobile Health Services to High-Need Communities
In coordination with the Puerto Rico Department of Health, FEMA, and community and partners, HOPE has been running mobile medical clinics equipped with a stocked pharmacy and a multi-disciplinary team of volunteer doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and pharmacists. So far we have provided services to more than 1,500 people in Loiza, Ponce, Guayama, and Adjuntas. Throughout the response, the team has treated medical conditions such as gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis, skin rashes and bites, which are typically more prevalent in marginalized communities. Other common conditions among patients include hypertension, diabetes and asthma. Respiratory problems are continuing to increase as rotting hurricane debris and after-effects of the storm continue to affect air quality. HOPE has created post hurricane promotion and disease awareness posters and pamphlets to advise people on simple precautions they can take to protect their health, such as using bottled water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth and protecting yourself from mosquitos.
With the power and water challenges on the ground, the need for sanitation and hygiene education is great, and HOPE is in the process of fully integrating WASH activities into our response. HOPE has supported the distribution of hygiene kits and water treatment kits, basic hygiene education through health awareness posters and contacts during distribution, as well as the EPA-led assessment of non-PRASA water systems. We’ll be launching a pilot hygiene education program shortly on proper handwashing, water treatment, vector control and dental hygiene. The pilot program will be implemented in partnership with volunteers and students from the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Medicine.
HOPE is continuing to procure and distribute critically needed medicines and supplies as needs are identified, with our logistics experts overseeing the dissemination of items to partners and conducting monitoring and evaluation activities to ensure they are being used effectively. With the help of our partners, we have delivered hygiene kits, antibiotics, inhalers, allergy medicines, diaper rash cream, syringes, insulin, water treatment kits, and other much needed basic supplies.
Since HOPE began its response on September 28, we have reached 22 municipalities. HOPE’s work has been made possible by the generous donations of many corporate partners, including PQMD members AbbVie, BD, Eli Lilly & Co., and Merck & Company.