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Puerto Rico Earthquake Response

by International Medical Corps
Puerto Rico Earthquake Response
Our team visits an informal camp for survivors
Our team visits an informal camp for survivors

This will be our final update as International Medical Corps’ emergency response to the Puerto Rico earthquakes is drawing to a close.

To continue supporting International Medical Corps in Puerto Rico, please visit our “Emergency Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)” project to learn about our global response to the pandemic.

Learn more about our Coronavirus response here: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/emergency-response-to-the-coronavirus-2019-ncov/

On January 7, 2020, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Puerto Rico – the strongest quake recorded on the island in more than 100 years – causing power outages across the island and cutting off access to safe drinking water. Damage from the quake and the months of aftershocks that followed left thousands displaced from their homes, residing in evacuation shelters and informal camps with limited access to safe water, sanitation and proper hygiene. More than 250,000 people needed assistance. 

International Medical Corps’ team, based in San Juan, responded quickly and deployed to the most impacted areas of southern Puerto Rico within 48 hours. We provided some 7,000 men, women and children across eight municipalities and 34 evacuation shelters in Puerto Rico with mental health and psychosocial support, relief supplies and increased access to hygiene and nutrition support.

The chaos, uncertainty and loss of homes, community and livelihoods caused by the recurring earthquakes and aftershocks were devastating to people’s mental health and put survivors at risk of psychological distress. Working with a team of 49 volunteers previously trained in Psychological First Aid (PFA), International Medical Corps provided emotional support and practical help to 999 individuals, including 134 children suffering from distress after the earthquake. Our team also trained 90 community leaders on the principles of PFA to help their communities be their own best first responders to future disasters.

With homes damaged and thousands displaced, evacuation shelters and informal camps were set up but lacked access to safe water, sanitation and proper hygiene. Some families were living in large shelters while others resided in small camps set up on public/private land or remained tentatively in their homes but slept in tents or cars overnight.

For example, a fisherman and father of two moved his family to a state-run camp for the municipality of Ponce after their home sustained significant damage during the earthquake. Heavy rains caused the area near the state-run camp to flood, forcing families who had moved there for safety to relocate once again. The fisherman found a camp nestled under an on/off-ramp that leads to the main highway. At night, the area was dark apart from the lights of passing cars, but he preferred the easy access the highway gave his family to flee in the event of any new emergency. The family welcomed the tent and solar lantern provided by International Medical Corps.

International Medical Corps reached thousands of people like the fisherman and his family with soap, towels, toothbrushes, toothpaste, tents, cots, portable showers and more to keep families healthy and prevent the spread of disease.

We thank the GlobalGiving community of donors for bringing awareness and support to International Medical Corps’ response efforts to the Puerto Rico earthquakes.

The earthquakes damaged homes displacing thousands
The earthquakes damaged homes displacing thousands
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The medical shelter at Damas Hospital in Ponce.
The medical shelter at Damas Hospital in Ponce.

As a result of rapidly rising cases of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, International Medical Corps has been collaborating with local hospitals to help them prepare for and respond effectively to COVID-19, integrated as far as possible into our response to the Puerto Rico earthquakes. As of May 5, 2020, COVID-19 has caused 1,843 confirmed infections and 54 related deaths in Puerto Rico according to the World Health Organization.

To help bring this pandemic to an end, International Medical Corps is supporting healthcare worker safety in the 30 countries where we provide services. We are leveraging our 35 years of experience and the knowledge of our epidemiologists from the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak, the 2003 SARS outbreaks, and infectious disease response efforts to ensure that at-risk countries and regions, like Puerto Rico, are best able to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Globally, International Medical Corps is supporting relief efforts with the provision of supplies, screenings and case management, capacity building, mental health and psychosocial support, and the deployment of an Epidemic Response Team, as needed. For more details on our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/emergency-response-to-the-coronavirus-2019-ncov/

In Puerto Rico, we are collaborating with the Department of Health, Damas Hospital in Ponce, Hospital Universitario de Dr. Ramon Ruiz Arnau (HURRA) in Bayamon, Hospital San Cristobal in Juana Diaz, and Interamericano de Medicina Avanzada (HIMA) Cupey in San Juan to help them prepare for and respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Damas Hospital is a 330-bed teaching hospital in Ponce and Hospital San Cristobal is a public hospital located in Juana Díaz. The San Cristobal Health Network also includes three primary care clinics in nearby rural municipalities. Both Ponce and Juana Díaz are located on the southern coastal plain region — close to the epicenter of the series of earthquakes that damaged infrastructure, destroyed homes and reduced access to critical services in January 2020. We deployed four medical shelters to Damas Hospital and will supply additional shelters to San Cristobal next week to provide medical surge support that is integrated within our existing emergency response interventions for those affected by the earthquakes. Damas Hospital is using the temporary medical shelters to create an additional Emergency Department, and San Cristobal will do the same, with the inclusion of extra respiratory wards as well.

HURRA is a 306-bed hospital administered by the Department of Health and is affiliated with the University of Puerto Rico. HIMA-Cupey is a 70-bed hospital located in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the territory. The HIMA Health Network also extends into San Juan, Caguas, Fayardo and Bayamon. We are supplementing the capacity at the hospitals with three temporary medical shelters at HURRA and additional shelters to be constructed at HIMA-Cupey next week. At HURRA, the medical shelters are being used as an extra triage and check-in area for two patients at a time, allowing for six feet of space in-between them. HIMA-Cupey will use the temporary medical shelters to screen patients for COVID-19 outside of the Emergency Department, to decrease the risk of exposure for non-coronavirus patients.

Within International Medical Corps’ temporary medical shelters, our four partner hospitals will have the much needed additional capacity to support patients who test positive for COVID-19.

We thank the GlobalGiving community for continuing to support our emergency response efforts in Puerto Rico.

The view inside the medical shelter.
The view inside the medical shelter.
Medical shelters provide necessary extra capacity.
Medical shelters provide necessary extra capacity.
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Organization Information

International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Kimberly Laney
Los Angeles, CA United States

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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