The end of 2017 saw multiple natural disasters hit the United States simultaneously. Wildfires and mudslides in California and deadly hurricanes which hit Southern states and the Caribbean. Federal disaster response and recovery has likely been stretched beyond budget and capacity. Perhaps this is one reason why that FEMA has decided to end food and water aid in Puerto Rico beginning on Wednesday. This would be a mistake. While Puerto Rico is not in the same state that it was in the few days and weeks post Hurricane Maria, there are plenty of residents across the island which still need assistance.
However, according to FEMA, those needs can be met without government assistance.
In a sign that FEMA believes the immediate humanitarian emergency has subsided, on Jan. 31 it will, in its own words, "officially shut off" the mission it says has provided more than 30 million gallons of potable water and nearly 60 million meals across the island in the four months since the hurricane. The agency will turn its remaining food and water supplies over to the Puerto Rican government to finish distributing.
Some on the island believe it's too soon to end these deliveries given that a third of residents still lack electricity and, in some places, running water, but FEMA says its internal analytics suggest only about 1 percent of islanders still need emergency food and water. The agency believes that is a small enough number for the Puerto Rican government and nonprofit groups to handle.
Let’s revisit what happened immediately following Maria and how the federal response to the hurricane was abysmal. It took 5 days after the hurricane hit the island before any senior federal official came to visit. It was 10 days before 4,500 troops arrived. Numerous FEMA workers that were on the island did not speak Spanish. We all saw Trump’s visit and, how after throwing paper towels at hurricane survivors, he proclaimed that the response was “excellent.” Meanwhile, Refugees International says that the agency handled the situation terribly, stating that "poor coordination and logistics on the ground" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Puerto Rican government "seriously undermined the effectiveness of the aid delivery process."
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