Recurrent Trauma: The effects of Climate Change on Mental Health in Puerto Rico

Rafael Negrón Santos did not lose his home or his job after Hurricane María, but the storm was the end of his relationship with his partner. The struggle to survive in the days and weeks that followed, coupled with the despair caused by life without electricity, the frustration at the number of deaths that the government refused to acknowledge, and the time he devoted to taking care of his mother’s needs, weakened communication with his partner. One day he came home, and she was gone. The number of stress factors he faced took a toll on his mental health. In the months that followed, he lost his appetite, lost nearly 40 pounds, and had panic attacks.

Fishermen in Puerto Rico Approach Third Year Without Receiving Funds for Losses After Hurricane María

Three years after Hurricane María made landfall, fishermen in Puerto Rico have not seen a penny of aid funding to cover losses caused by the storm, several fisheries have not yet been repaired and others have been unable to resume their normal work due to lack of equipment, boats or ramps. At worst, some have closed down. The bureaucracy in the management of the funds, coupled with neglect in how the procedures were handled by the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) have been the obstacles to access to money, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) found. “We would have been better off if we had been swept away [by the hurricane]. [The Department of] Agriculture told us they didn’t know what to do with us.

The Reasons for the Limited Number of Molecular Tests in Puerto Rico

Finding molecular tests that confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis in Puerto Rico is currently quite challenging, and the government restricts who has access to them. One of the reasons is the lack of materials such as reagents, the chemicals necessary to detect the coronavirus. “All reference labs have a need for reagents,” said Ilia Toledo, president of the Toledo Clinical Laboratory, one of the largest in Puerto Rico. In addition, the 200 members of the Association of Clinical Laboratories face problems getting swabs for sampling, its President Juan Rexach confirmed. The standard justification given for the lack of swabs, transport vials, and chemical reagents — all necessary to administer and process these tests — is fierce competition for these supplies throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Housing Options Don’t Get Off the Ground After Hurricane María, Earthquakes

A bathroom and a bedroom is what’s left of Alexandra Camacho Quiñones’ home in the Amalia Marín sector of the Playa de Ponce neighborhood in Ponce. Her house was destroyed three years ago after Hurricane María, and as time passes, the despair of not having a new home for her and her family of three takes a toll. She has been waiting for a year for the Department of Housing’s (DH) Repair, Rebuild and Relocate (R3) program to begin rebuilding her home. “I keep calling every two weeks, with the same anxiety,” she said. She recalls that she has been in contact with the R3 program regularly since last October.

Caribbean Public Education Systems Adrift Due to the Coronavirus

Within days from each other, public education systems in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Cuba suspended classes in schools in March this year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. With no time, tools or defined public policies to lay down strategies that would somehow ensure and measure student participation and progress, distance learning had predictable results. The structural deficiencies of the education systems, the social inequality experienced by students and teachers, the digital gap, and the absence of processes for the participation of school communities in the design of educational plans, are unsolved dilemmas for back to school, amid the latent threat of COVID-19. “We hardly learned anything,” said a 13-year-old Puerto Rican student about the abrupt change in his learning process since classes were suspended. Another young boy, 14, recalled how difficult it was to adopt a study routine with his younger sister and mother: “I’m a Special Education student and we’re used to a certain pace and support.”

Rapid tests and false negatives: Puerto Rico and Peru’s strategies to defeat COVID-19

On April 26, Peruvian citizen Miriam Grace presented the first symptoms of COVID-19: sore throat, coupled with cough and fever. Warning bells went off when, on May 2, her sister María del Carmen, her nephew Santiago and niece Antonella also showed their first symptoms that went from nausea and vomiting to loss of taste and smell, according to official reports from the Peru Ministry of Health and the interviews that the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI in Spanish) and Ojo Público conducted with the family. On May 4, Miriam’s father, Juan Francisco, and María del Carmen fell ill with a recurring cough, and on Saturday, May 9, the virus claimed the only victim in that family, who lived in the same home in the Piura region, north of Peru. Edith, who was the family matriarch, died at home due to a COVID-19 infection, her death certificate confirmed. In response to this death, personnel from the Peru Ministry of Health went to Edith’s home to perform a rapid antibody test on the five people who had direct contact with her during the last days of her life.

Federal warnings cause further delays in the post-María recovery process in Puerto Rico

Four Puerto Rico government agencies are experiencing delays in the disbursement of recovery funds related to the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and María for failing to correct a series of problems related to how they handled money granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) flagged in audits conducted in 2019. The Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency, known as COR3, Executive Director Ottmar Chávez Piñero said the audit´s claims do not limit further approvals of recovery funds by FEMA, but they do affect the process of disbursement of these monies to the agencies. COR3 is the entity in charge of channeling FEMA funds to public agencies, municipalities and nonprofit organizations. “Completing the corrective actions is certainly going to have an impact on the disbursement [of funds]. Within the grant validation process, in terms of compliance, we have to be sure that these agencies abide by the results of the audits, as part of the checklists.