FEMA assistance for Puerto Rico
On Oct. 20, 2022, President Joe Biden increased FEMA assistance for Puerto Rico to accelerate recovery efforts after Hurricane Fiona. This amendment builds upon Biden’s major disaster declaration on Sep. 21, 2022, which authorized the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to lead recovery efforts in Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities. While the original declaration on Sep. 21 set the federal funding for emergency protective services at 75%, President Biden increased the share to 100%. The 100% share, which previously covered emergency costs for the first 30 days after Hurricane Fiona, will be extended to 60 days under the Oct. 20 amendment. These funds will go toward “debris removal and emergency protective measures” as well as “direct federal assistance” to aid in recovery efforts, according to The White House.

Ongoing Recovery Efforts After Hurricane Fiona

From Sep. 17 to Sep. 21, Hurricane Fiona destroyed homes and businesses across Puerto Rico, resulting in multiple fatalities. Puerto Rico’s Department of Health notes more than a dozen confirmed deaths related to Hurricane Fiona, from causes such as head trauma and drowning. When Hurricane Fiona reached Puerto Rico, many residents were still trying to recover from Hurricane Maria, which caused severe damage to the island just five years earlier.

Although the storm came to an end, more than 100,000 residents struggled without power even two weeks after the storm hit. LUMA Energy, the company in charge of Puerto Rico’s grid, restored power to 91% of its customers but faced difficulty reaching more remote areas. NPR reported that “nearly a third of customers in the western region of the island” had no electricity access as of Oct. 2.

The storm also destroyed bridges and vital transportation roads, preventing many emergency services from reaching more isolated regions. While government officials and local groups have successfully reached many of these areas, transportation concerns remain for the elderly, people with disabilities and people with preexisting health conditions.

FEMA’s Emergency Protective Services

FEMA has been working closely with the government of Puerto Rico to boost recovery efforts. In a Sep. 25 FEMA press release, Puerto Rico’s Governor Pedro Pierluisi stated: “We are committed to ensuring our people have access to essential services. We will continue working collaboratively with all our mayors so that full disaster assistance reaches the 78 municipalities.”

According to a FEMA report on Oct. 11, FEMA teams have registered more than 3,700 residents for FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA). DSA crews have “referred more than 2,600 individuals to voluntary agencies” to assist with medical care and transport, evacuation and shelter, home restoration and other relief services.

Because FEMA requests that survivors communicate their needs primarily through email, phone or the mobile app, FEMA aimed to provide internet connection and power in more isolated regions. For example, FEMA installed mobile satellite systems in mountainous regions to establish Wi-Fi hotspots. Once connected with FEMA, survivors can register for “federal disaster assistance.” After survivors apply for assistance, FEMA inspectors schedule an appointment to assess the damage.

Learning From the Past

FEMA’s efforts have already made a considerable impact on survivors of Hurricane Fiona. However, Puerto Rico has experienced difficulties initiating recovery projects through Public Assistance funds provided by FEMA. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that, in January 2021, FEMA pledged $23.8 billion through Public Assistance funds to help Puerto Rico recover from the effects of previous hurricanes and earthquakes as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the GAO reports that “because Public Assistance is a reimbursement program, Puerto Rico must provide the initial funding for projects and seek reimbursement afterward.” However, Puerto Rico’s financial difficulties posed barriers to accessing funding to begin the obligated recovery projects. As such, by May 2021, Puerto Rico had only spent $4.7 billion of the $23.8 billion. Additionally, Puerto Rico “only spent $158 million for long-term rebuilding projects, such as rebuilding schools, the power grid, water systems and other damaged infrastructure,” the GAO said.

The GAO recommends that FEMA identifies potential barriers to Puerto Rico’s recovery and takes action to address these risks as recovery efforts in Puerto Rico continue. With this feedback, FEMA can strengthen the recovery response in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona. With Biden’s new funding plan, FEMA will be able to expand its territorial and local efforts on a larger scale.

– Anna Lee
Photo: Flickr

Puerto Rico In RuinsOn Sept. 18, 2022, Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico. This Category 1 storm left hundreds of people stranded all across the island. Houses and buildings were obliterated and left on the streets. Current residents are reeling and coping with how their homes no longer exist.

Puerto Rico’s History of Hurricanes

Five years before Hurricane Fiona, Puerto Rico was visited by another tropical storm: Hurricane Maria. Maria was a Category 4 hurricane that left aftershocks still impacting the island. Not only did it leave Puerto Rico in physical ruins, but it also collapsed the country’s electrical system. Although the Trump administration attempted to help with damage and repairs, United States aid efforts were inadequate, given the magnitude of the storm and the amount of relief provided. When Hurricane Fiona hit a few years later, the island had not recovered.

Hurricane Fiona Strikes

Severe flooding occurred as dark clouds rested above the entire island and delivered record amounts of rainfall in Puerto Rico. Still traumatized from Hurricane Maria, Danny Hernández, a citizen of San Juan, recalled the scarcity’ most Puerto Rican residents have experienced since the first catastrophe years ago. Hurricane Fiona left 900,000 residents without power and 358,000 without access to water. Due to high winds, debris blocked many peoples’ escape routes to safety. In Cayey, a mountainside town, the Puerto Rican National Guard was sent to rescue 21 elderly and disabled people from an elderly home. Photography student, Ada Vivian Román, experienced several trees and fences being knocked over around her town. However, she goes on to say how privileged she feels compared to those whose homes were submerged underwater by the storm, AP News reports.

Hurricane Relief Efforts in Puerto Rico

After seeing Puerto Rico in ruins, U.S. President, Joe Biden, took action in assisting the struggling island. Biden has promised to allocate federal funds to pay for 100% of aid costs related to Fiona for one month. Before the hurricane, he approved a declaration allowing FEMA to give money directly to the people impacted by the storm. Moreover, on Sept. 21, Biden issued a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico.

Several organizations have begun to raise funds to support this catastrophe. For instance, Global Giving has started a Hurricane Fiona Relief Fund to help residents on the island and others bordering Caribbean islands affected by this storm. In addition, a women-led nonprofit, Taller Salud, is already working to provide hurricane relief across Puerto Rico by accepting donations of everyday items.

With Puerto Rico devastated by the hurricane, many residents are left wondering what the future holds and how the hurricane’s impact will likely be felt for years. With continued support from international and local aid, Puerto Ricans strive to overcome this disaster.

– Madison Stivala
Photo: Flickr

Supporting the Caribbean
The Caribbean has long been a source of tropical weather including disastrous hurricanes, which can sweep some of the developing Caribbean countries to their feet. With high wind speeds and paths that often hit kilometers wide, hurricanes can be very dangerous to land and its ecosystems and to people and their economies. Before a hurricane ever hits the Caribbean there is already a financial disparity, causing rebuilding to be more difficult for lower-income areas. As a result, supporting the Caribbean is incredibly important.

Homes in lower-income areas usually comprise less expensive materials that cannot withstand a hurricane. Lower-income areas may also not have access to technology for updates on the weather, where to receive assistance in times of a weather crisis and a lack of general communication between family and friends. This can be a huge stressor for those living in low-income areas that experience hurricanes. In Puerto Rico, the poverty rate in 2021 was 43.4%.

A study from Geroge Washington University reported on Hurricane Maria that “mortality that resulted not just from direct impact from the storm but from things like failure to get to a hospital because of impassable roads or insufficient or expired medicine for people with heart ailments or chronic illnesses.” Hurricanes in the Caribbean can exacerbate homeless and further displacement. For this reason, it is necessary that organizations including ECHORN are supporting the Caribbean after hurricanes.

Notable Hurricanes in the Caribbean Between 1979-1994

According to a 2019 St. Lucia Loop News article, the following hurricanes discussed are the deadliest hurricanes to hit the Caribbean thus far. The fourth deadliest hurricane to hit the Caribbean was Hurricane Gordon occurring from November 8 to 21, 1994. Hurricane Gordon made impacts on Jamaica, the Bahamas, Cuba and Turks and Caicos. Windspeeds were up to 85 mph and although it was only a category 1 hurricane, it caused $594.1 million in damage and took 1,152 lives.

The third deadliest hurricane to hit the Caribbean was Hurricane David which hit between August 25 to September 8, 1979. Hurricane David made a major impact on the Dominican Republic, specifically on August 29, 1979. Windspeeds for Hurricane David reached 175 mph causing $1.54 billion in damages. On August 30, 1979, Hurricane David turned into a category 5 hurricane, producing waves of 20-30 feet and mudslides which killed 1, 200 people out of a total of 2,068 deaths.

Notable Hurricanes in the Caribbean Between 2004-2019

The second deadliest hurricane to affect the Caribbean was Hurricane Jeane, which hit Puerto Rica and lasted from September 13-28, 2004. Windspeeds for Hurricane Jeane reached 120 mph and left damages in its wake costing $7.94 billion, according to Loop St. Lucia News.

The deadliest hurricane to occur in the Caribbean from 1979 to 2019 was Hurricane Maria, totaling 3,059 deaths. Hurricane Maria occurred from September 16 to October 2, 2017, and hit Puerto Rico, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Anguilla, The British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. Hurricane Maria hit the Dominican Republic with winds up to 175 mph in affected areas, causing $96.1 billion in damages, Loop St. Lucia News reports. The hurricane left some areas without food, clean water and electricity for several months.

One can only imagine the devastation that many Caribbean people and islands have endured over the years. Hurricanes can be a deadly part of life for many living in the Caribbean. This is why it is imperative that teams are working remotely and on the ground to aid survivors and rebuild communities of those impacted by Caribbean hurricanes.

ECHORN: Supporting Caribbean Communities After Hurricanes

The Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network is a team of individuals located in various parts of the Caribbean as well as the United States. Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith started ECHORN in 2017 after Hurricane Irma and Maria, “which devastated the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin/St. Maarten, Barbuda, Dominica and many others.” ECHORN is working to alleviate disease in the Caribbean through action-oriented research.

Most of its work pertains to disease research but it also has a Caribbean Hurricane Relief Fund that supports the Caribbean people, land and economy. ECHORN’s reason for helping Caribbean communities after a disaster is because “Climate change causes more severe storms and hurricanes that threaten island communities. The Caribbean is already under serious economic strain from the ongoing pandemic. Decreases in tourism, dependency on food imports and stagnant economic growth have complicated plans for disaster preparedness and recovery.” The ECHORN Hurricane Relief Fund is supporting the Caribbean nonprofits that aid in community health and well-being after natural disasters, such as hurricanes. ECHORN has a committment to providing long-term support to the Caribbean islands. Its goal in supporting Caribbean communities is to rebuild and restore crucial health and social services for the well-being of all who live there.

ECHORN’s Accomplishments in Supporting the Caribbean

ECHORN hurricane relief funds have gone towards rebuilding communities and establishing positive impacts on Caribbean communities. At the Caño Martín Peña ENLACE Project of San Juan, Puerto Rico, ECHORN’s hurricane relief funds were able to help rebuild a community garden, which not only feeds the community but provides safety and community involvement. Additionally, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands was able to purchase a community-sized refrigerator to hold more food to provide for people in the community.

Hand2Earth of St. Vincent & the Grenadines used ECHORN’s hurricane relief funds to support vetiver projects in the Dominican Republic. “Planting the vetiver grass restores and stabilizes eroded landscapes. When harvested, the grass also provides a renewable resource for a craft industry that supports at-risk populations.” Because of ECHORN’s dedication to supporting the Caribbean, efforts have occurred to rebuild and improve Caribbean communities after disaster strikes.

– Kaley Anderson
Photo: Flickr

USAID hurricane preparation effortsBefore hurricanes arrive, aid organizations such as USAID work to prepare for the natural disasters. USAID hurricane preparation efforts for the Atlantic hurricane season include ensuring that the organization itself and communities in Latin America and the Caribbean have the supplies and knowledge needed to minimize the impact of hurricanes. With the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season underway, USAID’s preparation efforts will help communities, especially those most impacted by poverty, recover from the aftermath of hurricanes.

The 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast

June 1 marked the start of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season with the arrival of the first Atlantic hurricane, Hurricane Elsa. According to AccuWeather meteorologists, Hurricane Elsa is one of seven to 10 hurricanes expected for the year 2021. Meteorologists believe three to five of these hurricanes will qualify as major hurricanes — hurricanes with wind speeds more than or equal to 111 miles per hour.

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season forecast predicts a season with above-average intensity, but meteorologists do not forecast a record-breaking season. As with the 2020 hurricane season, COVID-19 presents a challenge for evacuation and relief efforts.

The increased poverty levels in Latin America and the Caribbean also create a new challenge for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Extreme poverty levels increased in the region during 2020 due to COVID-19, with approximately 12.5% of Latin America and the Caribbean’s population currently living in extreme poverty.

People living in poverty face more barriers in recovering from the impact of hurricanes because they lack access to financial resources that could help them rebuild and seek assistance after hurricanes land. Furthermore, impoverished countries usually lack resilient infrastructure and housing, making these countries more vulnerable to damage and destruction.

Off-site USAID Preparation

Effective USAID hurricane preparation efforts require the agency to accumulate the supplies needed to help people affected by hurricanes. USAID maintains supply stockpiles in the U.S. state of Miami, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Pisa in Italy. By maintaining these stockpiles, USAID can distribute supplies as needed.

USAID hurricane preparation efforts also include testing temporary shelter in simulated hurricane conditions offsite before taking it to disaster-prone areas. Testing housing helps ensure that people impacted by hurricanes receive shelter that is safe and resilient to natural disasters.

On-site USAID Preparation

USAID hurricane preparation efforts also involve working with people on-site in communities at risk of hurricanes. USAID trains meteorologists, educates people about individual safeguarding measures to take to stay safe during hurricanes, stations experts in the Caribbean and Latin America and sends teams to disaster sites before hurricanes make landfall. All these actions help minimize the impact of hurricanes. To create teams that are familiar with the region before disasters happen, USAID stations long-term consultants, advisers and program officers in Latin America and the Caribbean.

USAID’s onsite work in Latin America and the Caribbean creates a network of people prepared to respond to disasters. As of May 2019, USAID trained 70,000 people in the region on disaster response. USAID provides disaster management teams with the necessary information to evacuate regions before flash floods begin, the most life-threatening aspect of hurricanes, by training meteorologists to evaluate the risk of flash floods.

Hurricane preparation saves lives by ensuring that physical and human capital is in place to respond to hurricanes and their after-effects. The Atlantic hurricane season continues until November 30, 2021. With the dedication of organizations such as USAID, disaster response in developing countries is strengthened and the impacts of natural disasters are mitigated.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

How Hurricanes Impact Poverty in CubaCuba and its capital city, Havana, must battle a rising threat: hurricane season. While many may think of Cuba as a vacation destination, Cuba is home to an aging population dependent on agricultural exports with a general lack of everyday necessities. Moreover, a significant number of Cuban citizens live in poverty. Increasing numbers of natural disasters only exacerbate this issue. Hurricanes impact poverty in Cuba and reduce the country’s ability to respond. Just recently, on July 5, hurricane Elsa hit Cuba with winds of over 60 mph. While overall damages were minimal, Elsa is merely one example of the growing annual threat.

Poverty in Cuba

Poverty in Cuba looks distinctively different from poverty across the world. For instance, Cuba has a planned economy, dependent on its agricultural and tourism sectors, with many social programs like universal access to healthcare, education and entertainment. However, while unemployment rates are low and poverty data is largely unknown, the Center of Humans and Democracy estimates that 66% of Cuban households receive less than $100 per month. Half of those families subsist on less than $1.33 a day.

Because of widespread poverty and an outdated healthcare system, COVID-19 posed a significant risk to the Cuban population and economy. Throughout 2020, Cuba experienced multiple food shortages, including staples such as chicken, eggs and rice. As a result of the pandemic, economists expected GDP to fall by 6% in Cuba.

How Do Hurricanes Aggravate Poverty in Cuba?

The simple answer to how hurricanes impact poverty in Cuba is that hurricanes are costly. Repairing infrastructure and housing damages requires an impressive governmental response. For example, in 2005, Hurricane Dennis caused Cuba an estimated $1.4 billion in damage, destroying 120,000 homes and killing 16 Cuban citizens. Cities like Havana were without power for several days. Additionally, more than 20% of the country was without water for an extended period. The U.S. and EU offered disaster relief aid to Cuba, but the Cuban government rejected both offers.

However, it’s more complicated than the mere cost. Oftentimes, powerful hurricanes hurt Cuba’s agricultural sector by destroying crops that are critical to Cuba’s economy. This makes it even harder to respond to the initial damages. Hurricane Dennis resulted in significant damage to Cuban agriculture, specifically to the citrus, fruit and vegetable industries. The storm destroyed 30,000 acres of bananas and 127,000 tons of vegetables. Economic losses like these ones inhibit Cuba’s overall disaster response and economic rebound.

Hurricane Irma and its Impact on Poverty in Cuba

Similar to Hurrican Dennis, in 2017, Hurricane Irma destroyed more than 4,000 homes on Cuba’s coast, severely damaging the country’s electoral grid and disrupting its agricultural industry. Hurricane Irma destroyed 7,400 acres of banana, rice and sugar crops across Cuba. The damage resulted in a food shortage, an exacerbation of poverty and a decline in the agricultural sector that plagued Cuba throughout the following months.

Not only do hurricanes cost billions of dollars in repairs and damages, but they consistently damage crops, constrict the country’s agricultural economy and hinder the country’s ability to fund an appropriate response. Hurricanes impact poverty in Cuba by constricting the country’s economic resources, response and food supply.

Additionally, scientists predict natural disasters and tropical storms are likely to increase as a result of climate change. In the coming years, Cuba will likely experience more storms, more agricultural disruptions and a higher need for a stronger response.

Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery

While Cuba is already a world leader in hurricane preparedness and recovery, increased storms will require a re-evaluated response. As another hurricane season reaches Cuba’s shore this summer, the country and its government must consider what more can be done to react to these potential threats.

After Hurricane Irma, Floridians, many with family in Cuba, mobilized to form nonprofits like the CubaOne foundation to help the country and its citizens recover from the natural disaster. CubaOne raised $50,000 for relief and sent more than 40 volunteers to help rebuild some of the areas most affected by the storm. While hurricanes aggravate poverty in Cuba, network responses and relief like these will aid Cuba in overcoming the effects of natural disasters.

– Zoe Tzanis
Photo: Flickr

Hurricanes in HondurasIn November 2020, Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota made landfall just two weeks apart in northeastern Nicaragua. The hurricanes spread across Central America. Honduras was one of the countries hit with severe destruction. In the wake of these storms, homelessness in Honduras reached all-time highs and an active humanitarian crisis unfolded as humanitarian organizations and policymakers struggled to contend with flooding, displacement and the spread of COVID-19. The aftermath of hurricanes in Honduras requires urgent humanitarian aid.

Poverty in Honduras

Nearly half of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. The poverty rate is higher in rural parts of the country than it is in urban centers. Whereas half of all Hondurans who live in the countryside subsist in varying states of poverty, less than half of all Hondurans who live in urban areas lead lives plagued by poverty,

The disparity between rich Hondurans and poor Hondurans is overwhelmingly large. A robust middle-class has yet to take shape in Honduras so Hondurans filter into one of two polarized class groups. A high rate of violence makes life treacherous for the poor.

Seasonal flooding has a detrimental effect on economic growth. Flooding from Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota combined with seasonal flooding make 2020 one of the worst years in Honduras’ history. Livestock and farmlands were swept away and Hondurans have had to search desperately for other means to feed themselves.

Homelessness and Hurricanes in Honduras

In 1998, three million Hondurans were made homeless by Hurricane Mitch and tens of thousands were forced to flee to the United States. The devastation that was unleashed by Hurricane Mitch is the closest analog to the combined effects of Eta and Iota. Reports on the rate of homelessness in Honduras after Eta and Iota remain incomplete, but it is undoubtedly high, similar in scope to the rate of homelessness in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch.

7 Responses to Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota

  1. Public Investment in Infrastructure and Social Programs. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez plans to engage “four times the nation’s annual budget in infrastructure and social programs to help Hondurans recover from devastating storms.” His plan will put thousands of Hondurans to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, so it works on two important levels. First, his plan creates jobs for Hondurans whose livelihoods were lost as a result of the hurricanes. Second, it will lead to necessary rebuilding projects.

  2. USAID Funding. By the beginning of December 2020, USAID had committed close to $50 million for humanitarian aid to meet the needs of Honduras’ relief efforts. Funding goes to securing “emergency food, shelter, urgent medical care, clean water, sanitation and hygiene.”

  3. USAID’s Honduras Emergency WASH and Shelter (HEWS) Program. In mid-December 2020, USAID announced that it will send packs of materials to “select families” through its HEWS program, which families can use to rebuild damaged or destroyed homes. Experts will also be sent to teach families how to use the material that has been sent and to work alongside families during the initial stages of the rebuilding process.

  4. Project HOPE Emergency Medical Teams. In remote villages, where poverty rates tend to be highest, villagers have scarce access to medical services. Project HOPE medical teams focus on these locations because unsanitary water supplies have been identified there. Also, cases of COVID-19 have been reported.

  5. Project HOPE WASH Program. Potable water is provided to 3,000 families through Project HOPE’s WASH program. Additionally, resources for sanitizing water, including chlorine and training materials, are provided to families so that water purification practices can be carried out indefinitely.

  6. AMDA Emergency Relief. Relief supplies, including food, coverings and hygienic supplies, were distributed to several dozen families through a partnership between AMDA and AMDA-Honduras. The rate of homelessness in Honduras is so high that many people have taken shelter in nursing homes. Hondurans who lost their homes as a result of Eta and Iota live side by side with Honduras’ elderly. Similar AMDA relief packs were distributed throughout such facilities.

  7. Distribution of KN95 and Surgical Masks. Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have accompanied the disastrous effects of Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Project HOPE distributed hundreds of thousands of KN95 and surgical masks to activists, doctors and frontline workers throughout Honduras to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Hope on the Horizon for Honduras

Hurricanes in Honduras coupled with COVID-19 created severe consequences for people living there. Long-term concerns include the effect that lack of adequate health services will have on mothers, pregnant women, newborns and young children. Many humanitarian organizations are prioritizing aid to remote parts of the country to mitigate the effects of isolation. The spread of disease is an additional concern. A comprehensive solution to the crisis at hand will involve combined efforts.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

How Hurricanes Affect Poverty Around the WorldHurricanes are large storms that develop from warm ocean waters. As they reach land, they create a storm surge, pushing ocean water onto the land, causing extreme damage such as infrastructure loss and flooding. Hurricane season lasts from May to November and causes loss of life and property for coastal regions around the globe. This article will examine how hurricanes affect poverty around the globe and organizations that help combat their destruction.

Hurricanes And Poverty: The Cycle

Hurricanes affect global poverty as they slow development and cause a significant loss of money, pushing people and countries into poverty. Each year 26 million people fall into poverty due to natural disasters. In particular, hurricanes cause a decrease in development and a loss of GDP. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused 30 years of decreased development in Honduras and Nicaragua. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan led to losses of more than 200% of Grenada’s GDP.

Hurricanes disproportionately affect impoverished communities. Those with lower income have less access to technology, which leads to a lack of information and leaving them unprepared for a coming natural disaster. Additionally, disadvantaged populations live in less stable housing that does not fare well against natural disasters. For example, the Caribbean has a history of suffering a severe impact of hurricanes, and this is partly because 60-70% of the infrastructure is informal, meaning not professionally made or following safety protocol.

Impoverished communities also have less access to transportation and healthcare, leaving them with fewer resources after a hurricane. In Puerto Rico after the 2017 Hurricane Maria, 2975 people died as a result of not having the transportation to go to a hospital or sufficient life-sustaining medicine. Rebuilding also requires funds that many disadvantaged populations do not have. While the rich can often afford to move out of high-risk areas, impoverished households cannot. Developing countries also cannot afford to protect high-risk areas, by, for example, rebuilding structures with higher elevations and installing sea walls. Hurricanes affect those living in poverty the most and, as a result, hurricanes push them further into poverty.

The Red Cross

The Red Cross is one of many organizations that provide hurricane relief around the world. It has stations throughout the globe, so it can provide emergency services and life-saving materials quickly to those who need it in the aftermath of a natural disaster, such as hurricanes. Many people working with the Red Cross are disaster response specialists who can work quickly in a disaster zone and are trained in situations that may occur during and after a hurricane. The Red Cross also reconnects families separated in natural disasters. The Red Cross has helped in hurricanes around the globe, including Haiti after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

Other organizations that help those living in poverty recover from hurricanes include Heart to Heart International, Convoy of Hope and Tourism Cares. By donating to any one of these organizations, one could help bring an impoverished person their livelihood back and help them recover from a hurricane, helping to bridge the gap between the rich and poor in terms of hurricane recovery.

– Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr 

Haiti's Earthquake 10 Years Later
January 12, 2020, marked the 10th anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, the capital of the small Caribbean nation of Haiti. People have taken time to remember what happened a decade ago, with one Haitian-American residing in Boston commenting, “I’m in pain. I’m in pain inside of me. Even my bones hurt me because of what’s happening in my country. We are human beings like everybody else, we have to live a life like everybody else.” Haiti has undeniably suffered greatly, but there is hope after Haiti’s earthquake 10 years later.

The Devastating Aftermath of the Disaster

The quake also impacted Haiti’s neighboring country, the Dominican Republic. Two aftershocks followed with a magnitude of 5.9 and 5.5., making it the worst natural disaster the country has seen in modern times. Haiti is located above two of the earth’s tectonic plates, the North American and the Caribbean plates, making it prone to large earthquakes. At the beginning of 2010, many news outlets covered the aftermath of the disaster, leaving much of the world shocked.

Between 220,000 to 300,000 people lost their lives in the 2010 quake, 122 of them American citizens, leaving 300,000 more injured and 1.5 million displaced from their homes. Nearly 4,000 schools suffered damage or complete eradication. This resulted in an estimated $7.8 to $8.5 billion in damage.

The disaster left many people with families living in Haiti anxious, wondering if their loved ones had survived the catastrophe. Others fled the country in search of a better life elsewhere. Jean-Max Bellerive, the Prime Minister of Haiti at the time of the earthquake called it “the worst catastrophe that has occurred in Haiti in two centuries.”

Foreign Aid Comes to the Rescue

In the midst of what seemed like the absence of hope, many Haitians prayed for help. Within a few days, foreign powers from all over the world responded, willing to aid the survivors with their needs. Within a day, President Obama stated that the United States would provide their “unwavering support” for the people of Haiti pledging $100 million in financial support.

Members of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy arrived in the country to assist the survivors of the earthquake with their medical needs. Outside of the United States, the European Commission promised $4.37 million in aid. In Asia, the South Korean and Indian governments provided $1 million in aid, and the Japanese government granted $5 million. Japan also donated a total of $330,000 value in tents and blankets for those without shelter.

Doctors and aircrafts supplied with food and water swarmed in quickly from countries such as Sweden, Brazil, Israel and Venezuela. It seemed as if the entire world had its eyes on Haiti. People all across the globe prayed for the relief Haitians needed to rebuild their lives and recover from such a traumatic event.

Haiti 10 Years Later

Despite the overwhelming efforts from foreign powers across the world in the aftermath of the earthquake, the earthquake has impacted Haiti even 10 years later. While the world has still not forgotten the 2010 earthquake, relief efforts often diminish because there are more recent natural disasters that require attention. When remembering the anniversary of such events, especially ones that occurred in impoverished nations, it is important to remember that relief efforts should not cease once mass media outlets elect to move on to new events.

Even before the earthquake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with about eight out of every 10 citizens living in poverty. Six years after the earthquake, Hurricane Matthew affected Haiti in early October 2016, the most powerful storm to affect the country in decades and resulting in almost $2 billion in damage.

In the 2000s, hurricanes like but not exclusive to Hurricanes Ike and Hanna, also affected Haiti resulting in flooding and hundreds of lives lost. Haiti’s economy is highly susceptible as a result of its location and the possibility of earthquakes and hurricanes. Because each disaster results in such high costs in damage when a majority of its people already live on only $2 a day, this poses a significant problem in providing a long-term solution for Haitians in need.

As of January 2020, many Haitian children face malnutrition due to high levels of food insecurity and infections, resulting in the deaths of infants, ages 2 and under. Many mothers also still face complications in childbirth resulting in death.

Much of these statistics do not appear to be promising on the surface, appearing as it virtually nothing has changed in a decade despite support from foreign powers during the country’s time of need. However, Haitians still refuse to discard their efforts for a better and more prosperous Haiti. In 2019, many Haitians protested the government and President Jovenel Moise. Haitians say that while citizens are “used to political and economic crises,” the cost of necessities such as food, gas and education has gone up significantly. These protests have continued into January 2020.

Reach Our World and the World Bank

Others around the world have also not given up on their efforts to create a stronger Haiti, even after Haiti’s earthquake 10 years later. Reach Our World is one of the missionary groups that visited Port Au Prince shortly after the 10th anniversary of the quake from January 17 to 22, 2020. As of January 8, 2020, ongoing contributions from the World Bank, consisting of 20 projects, have grossed $866.46 million.

Therefore, while the mass media outlets do not commonly cover the continuing political and economic tensions existing after Haiti’s earthquake 10 years later, many advocacy groups and world powers have not forgotten about the work that the world still needs to accomplish to help further the nation and its people. In order to become more successful in such efforts, it is imperative to be consistent and not wait until another natural disaster strikes to contribute to relief efforts so that the people of Haiti can achieve a stronger and brighter future.

A. O’Shea
Photo: Flickr

Charities Providing Aid During Disastrous Hurricanes
After the hurricane season in 2004, Science Magazine published a paper about the increasing intensity of hurricanes over the years. The number of category four and five hurricanes have increased by 80 percent in the past 30 years. The paper titled, Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment, links the rise in storms to increasing sea surface temperatures. The authors, led by the National Center of Atmospheric Research, concluded that “global data indicate a 30-year trend toward more frequent and intense hurricanes.” In recent years, the world has seen the serious aftermath of these chaotic hurricanes. Luckily, there have been numerous charities providing aid during disastrous hurricanes.

Hurricane Irma, ICNA Relief and Project C.U.R.E

In 2017, two hurricanes made their way into the headlines: Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Irma, classified as a category five hurricane, devastated a string of small Caribbean islands. Irma’s eye touched Barbuda, destroying 95 percent of the buildings on the island. The hurricane hit southwest Florida on September 10. When it left the following Tuesday, Irma had flooded major cities including Jacksonville, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina. It left millions without power. Thankfully, several charities came to provide support.

One of the charities during the disastrous hurricane was ICNA Relief. Its disaster relief team was one of the first responders after Hurricane Irma made landfall. Its mission was to assist the people by cleaning out the homes that fierce winds damaged. A couple of days later, it assisted the flooded homes. Another charity was Project C.U.R.E and for every dollar peopled donated, it provided $20 worth of life-saving medical supplies and equipment. A week and a half later, Hurricane Maria struck the Caribbean before it could complete reparations and restoration for Hurrican Irma.

Hurricane Maria, the Hispanic Federation and the International Relief Team

After making landfall on the Caribbean island of Dominica, Hurricane Maria landed on the U.S. territory, Puerto Rico. With strong, damaging winds, Maria pummeled through infrastructure and left Puerto Rico without electricity for months. To this day, Puerto Rico has not fully recovered after the disastrous hurricane. It has been the second-costliest hurricane in the history of the United States, just after Hurricane Katrina. Since it made landfall, relief efforts have continued to deliver much needed short and long term support to the people of Puerto Rico.

One of the biggest charities to provide assistance for Hurricane Maria was the Hispanic Federation, which managed to transport emergency first responders and 7.4 million pounds of food and essentials during the devastating months after the hurricane. Another charity worth mentioning is the International Relief Team. It provided more than 2,000 large, heavy-duty tarps to provide shelter and protect families from the blazing sun and frequent rainfalls, which is further proof of charities providing aid during disastrous hurricanes. A year later, charities became necessary as Hurricane Michael blew away infrastructure.

Hurricane Michael

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael, classified as a category five, made landfall in the Florida Panhandle. It was the first significantly damaging hurricane in the area. One of the hardest-hit locations was from Mexico Beach to Indian Pass where people observed nine to 14 feet of peak storm surge inundation. On Cape San Blas, the storm surge cut through a peninsula, creating two inlets. The hurricane heavily damaged or completely destroyed numerous homes close to the coast as the water slammed against the structures. Amid the chaos, different charities came up to share the burden.

Charities Aiding in the Aftermath

The Samaritan’s Purse deployed more than 300 volunteers to the area where it cleared downed trees and debris whilst tarping roofs. Because of the damage in infrastructure, a lot of health clinics and shelters suffered. Americares delivered 61 shipments of medicine, medical supplies, hygiene supplies and other relief items to local health facilities in relief efforts.

Charities providing aid during disastrous hurricanes have made a significant impact. They have provided people with support physically and emotionally after these traumatic events. With Hurricane Dorian recently threatening the East Coast and the Bahamas, one has to be thankful for those volunteers that have managed to help those people in need as these strong hurricanes become more frequent.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Cruise ships are most commonly used for pleasure voyages in which the journey, the ship’s amenities and the destinations along the route all come together to create a unique experience for the passengers. Destination possibilities are endless. Some cruises take tropical routes through islands and others sail along coastlines made of ice. During hurricanes, many cruise ships reroute to provide aid to the victims of hurricanes. Hurricanes cause billions of dollars of damage and multiple cruise lines provide aid for those in need.

Cruise Ships Turn Into Shelters

Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the U.S. Katrina caused $125 billion in damage to New Orleans and parts of Florida. Three Carnival Cruise Line ships were chartered to provide shelter for at least 7,000 displaced people. The cruise line canceled thousands of passengers in order to provide much-needed accommodations for those in need.

Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of New Jersey and New York in 2012. It caused close to $62 billion in damage. Carnival Corp. offered free cruises to the victims of Hurricane Sandy alongside a donation of $2 million divided between four charities that provided relief. Norwegian Cruise Lines welcomed 150 New York-area mothers and their loved ones aboard its Mother’s Day sailing trip in an effort to alleviate some of the hardships these women were facing. 

2017 Hurricane Season

The hurricane season in 2017 caused multiple, devastating storms. There were four main storms: Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate. They were so notable their names have been retired from the hurricane names list. There was an estimated cost of $200 billion in damage; although, the final costs will not be known for years. Several cruise lines provided aid after each hurricane.

  • Royal Caribbean was one of the first cruise companies to provide aid after Hurricane Irma. It sent ships back toward the storm to rescue those stranded. In addition to repurposing their ships, Royal Caribbean matched Hurricane Irma donations up to $1 million.
  • Carnival Cruise Lines pledged a minimum of $2 million in aid after Hurricane Harvey to rebuild and relieve affected areas of Texas. Following Hurricane Irma a few months later, the cruise company released a statement that ships were on standby to help Florida after damage.
  • Disney Cruise Line donated money after both Harvey and Irma. Disney also pledged one million dollars to the American Red Cross. The Walt Disney Company followed suit and pledged to donate another $2.5 million to help those in Florida.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line worked directly with the government to provide supplies to St. Thomas days after Hurricane Irma. The cruise line also deployed ships to aid islands in the Caribbean that had been affected earlier.

Hurricane Dorian

In August 2019, Hurricane Dorian caused about $7.5 billion in damages. Royal Caribbean committed $1 million to Dorian disaster relief, and their partners in the Holistica joint venture donated an addition $100,000. The donations included matching guest and employee donations up to $500,000. Royal Caribbean went even further than monetary donations and pledged to provide 20,000 meals each day to those in need of relief. It also sent supplies in the form of water, toilet paper, pet food, tarps, plywood, diapers, flashlights and generators.

Hurricanes cause massive amounts of damage every year. They displace residents, flood entire cities and cause trauma to those who live in the affected areas. Despite the horrors hurricanes cause, cruise lines provide aid to those affected by hurricane damage.

Darci Flatley
Photo: Flickr