Puerto Rico Benefits from UNICEF USA Emergency Response Fund

November 16, 2017

After two hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico, New York State, UNICEF USA, UPS and the Bridge Fund joined forces to accelerate help to more than 3.4 million people

Hurricane Maria caused unprecedented damage after it struck Puerto Rico on September 20. It leveled homes and crops, flooded roads and destroyed the island’s energy grid, depriving approximately 3.4 million people of electricity. Among many other things, that meant drinking water could not be pumped. Puerto Rico’s Governor, Ricardo A. Rosselló, announced the island was on the brink of a “humanitarian crisis,” and predicted a long recovery.

UNICEF USA Senior Officer, Humanitarian Emergencies and Executive Communications, Michelle Centeno recently returned from Puerto Rico, where UNICEF USA is working with UPS and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico to deliver emergency supplies. 

After Hurricane Maria, millions were still without power or water. UNICEF USA, armed with accelerated funding from the UNICEF USA Bridge Fund, moved quickly to get supplies to the most vulnerable.

The needs of children and their families were unprecedented, too. As Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO of UNICEF USA explained, “The devastation in Puerto Rico demands that we all play a role in responding, and UNICEF USA remains committed to its mission to put children first — here and around the world.”

So, UNICEF USA joined with Governor Cuomo and New York State, our long-time partner UPS and others to quickly deliver emergency supplies to Puerto Rico. Because speed and efficiency were paramount, the Bridge Fund stepped in, too. Safe water is essential to avoid disease outbreaks and keep young children healthy in the aftermath of a disaster.

Two women deliver a UNICEF Family Dignity and Hygiene Kit to two other women in Puerto Rico to help them recover from Hurricane Maria

Adilesli Rodriguez and Gloribel Ortiz, left, from a community organization called P.E.C.E.S., a UNICEF USA partner in its Puerto Rico relief effort, deliver a UNICEF Family Dignity and Hygiene Kit to Elsa Martinez and Nadeisha Rivera, residents of the town of Humacao. © UNICEF USA

Equally important is good hygiene. By accelerating funds before UNICEF USA received sufficient gifts from American donors, the Bridge Fund enabled UNICEF USA to rapidly purchase 12,000 hygiene kits from UNICEF's Supply Division. These kits provided 60,000 vulnerable children and families in Puerto Rico with basic hygiene necessities for 30 days. Each kit serves a family of five — two adults and three children. Hygiene kits include water containers, buckets, soap, water purification tablets and other essentials.

UPS, a generous, long-time UNICEF USA partner, helped airfreight UNICEF Family Dignity and Hygiene Kits to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria relief.

UPS — a generous, long-time UNICEF USA partner — helped airfreight UNICEF Family Dignity and Hygiene Kits and safe water to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria relief. © UNICEF USA

The final step in the rapid response process involved UPS. It generously mobilized several planes to deliver the hygiene kits the Bridge Fund helped purchase — and 1,000 pallets of safe water from Governor Cuomo’s New York State effort. In coordination with the Governor’s teams, and nonprofit partners on the ground, these supplies were ultimately delivered to more than 11 designated humanitarian supply distribution centers in Puerto Rico and played an important role in alleviating Hurricane Maria’s immediate impact.

Learn more about the UNICEF USA Bridge Fund.

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Top photo:  Kendall Ortiz and Damian Orta, in storm-damaged Humacao, Puerto Rico, have just received a UNICEF Family Dignity and Hygiene kit from UNICEF USA to help them recover from Hurricane Maria. © UNICEF USA