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 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.