The back-to-back hurricanes that hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico this month have left the island of more than 3.4 million residents in crisis. The storms laid waste to the power infrastructure and much of the housing on the island. For many residents, access to gas, money, food, water, and electricity remains uncertain. Vulnerable people, including seniors, those with disabilities, and people that live in more rural parts of the island, continue to be at risk. We are deeply aware of the shortfalls in emergency responses.
People who are not able to leave their homes in an emergency are often confined there until mitigation efforts are well underway, which could take weeks or even months. Those who need access to electricity for refrigeration of medication or for the operation of other vital medical supplies are also at extreme risk. Many of the hospitals on the island lack the fuel necessary to help keep people alive. One nursing home owner is saying, “There is no help.”
The overwhelming number of natural disasters that have occurred over the past month demonstrate the need for states, territories, and the federal government to continue to work together to improve local and regional disaster planning efforts. Disability rights organizations must remain diligent in pressing our government to include disability community input. It is necessary that we provide for the needs of disabled people in disaster planning and implementation while fully respecting the rights of individuals with disabilities to live fully integrated in the community.
Please contact Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies if you would like to help the people of Puerto Rico.