As of this writing, more than 25% of Puerto Rico is still without running water. In the North, more than half of residents do not have access to running water. All in all, about one million U.S. citizens are still without a reliable source of clean water.
And things are actually worse than that. People without homes still may not have access to running water, of course, and much of the water being supplied to homes still has to be boiled in order to be safe to drink.
A month after Hurricane Maria hit, Puerto Rico still faces disease and death from dehydration and water-borne illness. Leptospirosis, a disease caused by contaminated water, has killed at least four people and 74 other cases have been identified. Since communication is poor, actual numbers are not known. Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics, but health care continues to be challenging with a lack of electrical power and transportation problems.
Reports that six million liters of bottled water have reached Puerto Rico since the storm have to be considered in light of the fact that more than three million people live on the Island. Commercial sources of bottled water, including retail giant Walmart, have been having trouble getting deliveries to stores. Many stores are rationing water, allowing one bottle per person.
There are a number of initiatives working toward getting water filters to Puerto Rico:
- Clean Water Kenya, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization, is taking 200 bio-filtration devices to Toa Baja next week. “The filters work in Africa and they will work in Puerto Rico,” says founder Ken Clark. The organization has provided 243 water filters to 187 Kenyan villages, bringing potable water to 25,000 people.
- Individuals across the nation have been using online crowdsourcing tools to buy individual filters to send to the Island.
- The American Federation of Teachers is buying 100,000 household filtration systems for homes in Puerto Rico. AFT members setting up clinics across the Island saw the need for clean water.
- A church and a synagogue banded together to deliver Lifestraw devices to a congregation in San Juan.
All five living former presidents sponsored a hurricane relief concert, celebrities are traveling to Puerto Rico to provide hands-on volunteer efforts, and the Senate has advanced a funding bill that would help Puerto Rico as well as Florida and Texas.
So there are federal efforts and individual efforts to help rebuild Puerto Rico. But, as Karen Fratti put it in an opinion piece, “The only thing that’s become super clear in the wake of the storm is that this economic and political system doesn’t work for Puerto Rico.”
There are still life-threatening problems in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. As these problems are dealt with, it’s essential to look toward the future of Puerto Rico. Let your Congressional reps know what you think.