Utuado, Puerto Rico, December 8—Zakat Foundation of America’s team of medical and disaster relief professionals just completed a week-long aid distribution and medical effort in eight of Puerto Rico’s hardest hurricane hit but still under-served communities.
The seven-person team, including two RNs, delivered prepaid debit cards, safe water, water filters, food, lanterns, and offered free medical screening to needy victims of Hurricane Maria in Coamo, Arecibo, Guyama, Barranquitas, and Utuado, for American citizens still suffering aid deprivation a shocking three months after the Category 5 storm ripped the island.
“There are still a lot of places without electricity or water—even in the Capitol San Juan but more pronounced in the rural and interior areas,” says Leticia Escamilla, Zakat Foundation program coordinator.
“It’s now 82 days since I do not have electricity or water in my home,” said a security guard there, excusing his wrinkled shirt to team members. “I cannot iron or wash it.” He continued, “My children just returned to school a couple weeks ago, and the mental stress of not being able to cook or live as before is something we must deal with daily.” Many people shared similar thoughts, says Escamilla.
One recipient said her entire neighborhood still had no electricity or running water, including the school she works in, which opened daily from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. “so the children can get a meal and have a place to go in the day.” By 7 p.m. “everyone’s forced to go to bed since there is no light.”
The relief team participated in an electronic cash transfer for two stricken communities, loading debit cards for needy beneficiaries preselected by Zakat Foundation partner Mercy Corps. They also handed out lanterns for those without electricity and water filters so families with running water could purify it for drinking. They met with local community leaders and about two dozen governmental and nonprofit organizations to coordinate their medical response.
The team distributed 10 food pallets in Arecibo, Puerto Rico’s largest community, hit hard by Maria, at a Wednesday Aid Fair set up in a different afflicted community each week by Paz Para La Mujer (Peace
Founded in 2001, Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) helps generous and caring people reach out to those in need. ZF’s mission is to address
immediate needs and ensure the self-reliance of the poorest people around the world. ZF conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than
50 countries. For more information, please visit www.ZAKAT.org.