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Local nonprofit lands in Puerto Rico after hurricane

Hurricane Fiona wrought devastating flooding
Posted at 4:52 AM, Sep 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-24 20:12:43-04

Earlier this week, Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, causing devastating flooding and leaving much of the island without power.

“Only 27% of the population here on the island have access to electricity and only 40% of the people have water," said Ivonne Rodriguez-Wiewall, the Executive Advisor for Direct Relief in Puerto Rico.

Direct Relief is an organization based in Santa Barbara and has boots on the ground in the Ponce and southern regions of Puerto Rico. People can donate on their website here.

They are currently working with Med Centro, a local healthcare organization.

“During normal time, we go out into the farms and provide services to the agricultural workers, to public housing, rural schools," said Allan Cintón Salichs, Med Centro Executive Director.

Direct Relief has about 8 team members on the ground while Med Centro has about 50 medical staff working out of mobile clinics in the community.

Direct Relief and Med Centro bringing medical supplies
Direct Relief and Med Centro bringing medical supplies

“They range from medicine doctors to psychology doctors to social workers, deployment personnel, all kinds of nurses," Cintón Salichs added.

After Hurricane Maria, Direct Relief established a hub in Puerto Rico. They keep a warehouse with medical equipment and hurricane preparedness packs.

“All around those routes of hurricanes, we pre-position these bags we have in medical equipment, insulin, for example," explained Rodriguez-Wiewall.

Cintón Salichs said “Pharmacies are closed. There is very limited access to medicines. So by receiving those very soon, we can as much as we can and they are available, we can provide the medicine to the patients.”

Direct Relief is privately funded so they carry out its initiatives through donations. Organizers say they learned a lot from Hurricane Maria, and feel more prepared for emergencies.

“People need to be to understand that they're taken care of. They're not alone. That sense of loneliness is the worst part of the aftermath of the storm,” said Cintón Salichs.

Much of Puerto Rico is without power and drinking water
Much of Puerto Rico is without power and drinking water.