One year ago this week, Hurricane María made landfall in Puerto Rico causing catastrophic damage to the island. Women and girls are typically disproportionately impacted in natural disasters, and there are widely held standards and guidelines in place to guarantee their protection before, during, and after an emergency. However, insufficient protocols were put in place to ensure that women were protected during and after the storm. In fact, violence against women increased after Hurricane María, and women’s rights activists have now declared a crisis of gender-based violence (GBV) in the storm’s aftermath.
In the face of insufficient assistance from federal and Puerto Rican authorities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, ordinary people have stepped up to become strong community leaders—ultimately strengthening community resilience and self-reliance. Yet they are largely being left out of recovery plans.
Six months after Hurricane Maria, the slow response to the needs of the Puerto Rican people continues to be woefully slow. The Puerto Rican and federal authorities' failure to adequately respond has been nothing short of a travesty. Alice Thomas writes that if there is a silver lining to this disaster, it is the incredible dedication of Puerto Rico's civil society groups in working toward the recovery of their communities and their most vulnerable neighbors.
In November, Refugees International carried out a mission to Puerto Rico to investigate the U.S. response to Hurricane Maria. Our team found the response by federal and Puerto Rican authorities was still largely uncoordinated and poorly implemented, prolonging the humanitarian emergency on the ground. Thousands of people still lack sustainable access to potable water and electricity and dry, safe places to sleep.