Puerto Rico is preparing for a new hurricane season, but the island is still feeling the effects of its last one.
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that there were 4,600 more deaths in Puerto Rico in the three months following Hurricane Maria than in the same period the previous year. That figure is at least 70 times greater than the official death count of 64.
The news comes as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ends its contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power lines, which were almost entirely destroyed by the Category 5 storm. Puerto Rico says 99 percent of the island is back on the electrical grid, but more than 13,000 Puerto Ricans remain without power, according to CNN. Earlier this month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that the island’s state-owned power authority, PREPA, will oversee the remaining work on the electrical infrastructure.
FEMA also announced last week it had awarded more than $194 million in public assistance grants to Puerto Rico for recovery efforts related to last year’s devastating storm. To date, the agency says it has awarded about $2.2 billion in total funding to the island for debris removal and emergency protective measures.
Despite relief efforts associated with Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans told The New York Times that they’re now worried about the upcoming hurricane season, which starts in June. A crucial concern is whether Puerto Rico’s power grid can withstand even a minor storm, the Times reported. Sarah Varney of Kaiser Health News told the PBS NewsHour that locals remain skittish about the power grid’s frailty. Last month, two island-wide blackouts knocked out power to 840,000 people. The first happened after a tree fell on a power line. The second happened after an excavator hit another power line while trying to remove a fallen transmission tower.
As Puerto Ricans struggle to recover, here are some of the campaigns still offering support, and how you can help:
- ConPRmetidos, a nonprofit based in San Juan, and Foundation for Puerto Rico have been raising millions since September 2017 to finance long-term relief efforts. Donations to their Puerto Rico Real-Time Recovery Fund will be used to help restore power, fund structural repairs in the most marginalized communities and improve needs assessment efforts to identify and support unattended areas.
- Unidos Por Puerto Rico was created through a partnership between the First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, and the private sector. The initiative is focused on helping individuals and small businesses on the island recoup by offering support for housing, food and health needs.
- The Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund is supporting immediate and long-term rebuilding of Puerto Rico by awarding grants to local initiatives and low-income communities hardest hit by the hurricane.
- The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is addressing medium and long-term recovery needs, including mental health treatment and the rebuilding of infrastructure, homes and businesses. Along with helping Puerto Rico, donations to the fund will provide relief to other areas in the U.S. mainland and the Caribbean ravaged by the 2017 hurricane season.
- Other national and global humanitarian organizations, such as Oxfam, American Red Cross, International Medical Corps, Americares, Save the Children and The Salvation Army are collecting donations to mobilize supplies and volunteers on the island.
- The crowdfunding platform GoFundMe has a list of other fundraising efforts by organizations and families you can donate to directly.
- Donations made to LifeStraw’s Safe Water Fund will help deliver LifeStraw water filtration systems — including the One LifeStraw Community water purifier, which can provide up to 26,400 gallons of safe water — to affected communities.
- Operation Agua is another initiative that is distributing water filtration systems to the island’s remote areas. A $30 donation buys an in-home purifier for a family in need and provides up to 24 liters of filtered water per day.
- UNICEF USA is distributing Emergency Relief Kits to children and families without access to clean water. Aside from essential sanitary products, the kits include water containers and water purification tablets to store clean water.
- Sign up with Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), which pairs volunteers with teams on the ground.
- Visit Connect Relief to find other on-the-ground volunteer opportunities organized by foundations and individuals.