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.
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.
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.
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.
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