Improving the Health and Lives of Puerto Ricans in Crisis

"IRW HAS JOINED EFFORTS WITH NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS TO PROVIDE SUPPORT AND RECOVERY ASSISTANCE TO AFFECTED COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT THE ISLAND."

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, causing widespread catastrophic damage, crippling the power grid and harming millions of people and thousands of businesses, our firm kicked off IRW Gives Back to deliver much-needed relief supplies and help hurricane victims.

At that time, our lead attorney, Ivonne Rodríguez-Wiewall, had the honor to be named executive advisor for Direct Relief in Puerto Rico. Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization based in Santa Barbara, California, that is active in all 50 U.S. states and more than 80 countries.

Direct Relief

Direct Relief provides humanitarian relief and medical aid to victims of poverty, natural disasters and other emergencies, delivering supplies such as food, water, home repair kits, medications, cleanup services and hygiene kits.

​​​​​​​Since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated much of Puerto Rico in 2017, Direct Relief’s expansive efforts in response to the emergencies created the establishment of a local team to manage the endeavor.
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Since 2017, Direct Relief has provided more than $100 million of specifically requested emergency medical resources and funding to health centers serving Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable communities across the island. Direct Relief is the largest non-governmental donor of charitable medical resources to Puerto Rico.

​​​​​​​In addition to providing medicines and supplies, cash grants have been aimed to bolster Puerto Rico’s health care system by equipping health centers with reliable solar power, extending medical services to remote areas, and increasing disaster readiness in case of future disasters.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Direct Relief remains committed to protecting frontline workers and vulnerable populations through donations of PPE, testing tents, and medical equipment in Puerto Rico.
Depending solely on the generosity of private businesses and individuals, Direct Relief has increased access to vital medical resources for health centers serving the most vulnerable communities in Puerto Rico.

ATTENTION ACT 60 CHAPTER 2 (FORMER ACT 22) GRANTEES

Our Direct Relief project offers an opportunity for Act 60 grantees to comply with the annual donation requirement to a nonprofit entity. Contact us for more information.

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ADAPTING TO THE NEW NORMAL

The year 2020 besieged Puerto Rico with numerous natural disasters which further aggravated many of the shortcomings Hurricane Maria unveiled in 2017. In January, a series of large-scale earthquakes destroyed many structures in the south and western parts of Puerto Rico. Today, hundreds of families remain displaced from their homes. Many hospitals and health clinics sustained structural damage, and displaced individuals still struggle to secure access to medical care for chronic conditions.

Direct Relief was involved in the immediate aftermath of these events when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. Our plans must now include measures that would not only alleviate the hardships borne from the hurricanes and earthquakes but also be compatible with the "new normal" of social distancing, remote medical care and the anticipation of future public health needs.

While emergency response remains at the core of our efforts, we continue forward in our path to bolster Puerto Rico’s healthcare sector by improving its preparedness to face present challenges as well as future disasters.

COVID-19 RESPONSE

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the need for widespread access to healthcare in underserved areas of Puerto Rico. Direct Relief is increasing access to health services by implementing programs such as facilitating telehealth networks, funding medical mobile units to expand Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) outreach programs, and solarizing health clinics to ensure continuity of care during power outages.

  • 22 grants of $50K to FQHCs to develop swift responses to the pandemic
  • 32 power generators donated to families with children suffering from chronic conditions requiring medical equipment
  • 35 mobile medical units and off-road vehicles provided to help clinics access their most remote and vulnerable populations
  • 66 telehealth projects to expand access to medical specialists and primary care providers in underserved areas in 57 municipalities

PROVIDING REALIABLE ENERGY

Since Hurricane Maria, the island's electric grid remains highly vulnerable to power outages in the face of recurring natural disasters. To ensure sustainability, Direct Relief equips health centers, clinics and community water pump facilities with resilient power systems that combine solar power, battery storage and backup generators. These systems allow healthcare facilities to continue operating uninterrupted during natural disasters.

  • 12 solar and storage health clinic projects, seven fully outfitted and five in process (another seven sites are in the works for 2021)
  • ​​​​​​​18 solar water well pumps outfitted with solar and storage completed or near completion

READYING THE HEALTH SYSTEM FOR THE NEXT CRISIS

We’re working tirelessly to address current emergencies as well as future ones.

  • 746 emergency response backpacks to the island’s Medical Reserve Corps and other healthcare providers for triage and medical outreach activities during emergencies
  • 15 hurricane preparedness packs of emergency medical supplies positioned in healthcare facilities across the island in advance of the 2020 hurricane season

FUTURE PLANS

  • Equip the island's 68 FQHCs and the Primary Care Association with two emergency long-range radios each
  • Provide an additional three mobile medical units and two off-road vehicles
  • Broaden mental health services for people still suffering from the devastating impact of hurricanes, earthquakes and COVID-19
  • Fund additional solar energy projects for community health centers using a new financing model
  • Support the medically vulnerable populations of people suffering from chronic diseases
  • Provide solar and battery backup for 11 community water pumps
  • Improve tertiary care for pediatric patients by funding an interventional radiology unit at the University Pediatric Hospital
  • Expand mental health services in the northwestern region by funding a crisis stabilization unit at Hospital Comunitario Buen Samaritano
  • Support infrastructure repairs to expand healthcare services to rural communities in the central region of the island

ABOUT DIRECT RELIEF

Direct Relief is a humanitarian organization that helps people whose health and lives are threatened by poverty, endemic diseases, natural disasters or civil conflict in the U.S and more than 80 countries. Since 1948, the nonprofit has equipped doctors and nurses with life-saving medical resources to care for the world's most vulnerable and at-risk people.

Thanks to the aid provided by individuals, foundations and businesses, Direct Relief aids people and communities without regard to politics, religious beliefs or ethnic identities. Assistance programs focus on maternal and child health, disease prevention and treatment, and emergency preparedness and response.

To learn more about the amazing work Direct Relief does, make a donation, start a fundraiser or volunteer, please visit Direct Relief or contact us directly.
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"We only have what we give." - Novelist Isabel Allende

Chances are you have something to give or share with people who are in desperate need of assistance at this very moment. To get involved in Direct Relief’s efforts in Puerto Rico efforts, please call 787-590-7070 or email Ivonne Rodriguez-Wiewall at IRodriguez-Wiewall@directrelief.org.

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