Puerto Rico: What’s Going On and How Can Companies Help?


How companies can have a major impact in the relief and recovery period after a major disaster.

More than a month since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, only 26% of its residents have electricity, more than 3,000 are still in shelters and only half its roads are passable. The vulnerability and suffering of  the elderly, young and sick is sobering, and the situation is threatening the health of many others too as they contend with poor sanitation, lack of access to medical care and other challenges brought on by the hurricane.

The Global Communities team on the ground is visiting hard-hit areas to assess how to provide relief to communities still reeling, especially in rural neighborhoods far from the capital, San Juan. In the rural community of Pastillo de Tibes, for example, the road is lined with debris and trash from water-logged homes, leaving the area ripe for public health hazards.  Other towns like Ponce and Humacao, far from the capital, are coping without proper infrastructure and or electricity. Other essentials like water, food, and access to cash are also in limited supply.

Global Communities is focusing on providing relief in consultation with the mayors, through whom much of the current aid is being coordinated, focusing our efforts on securing commitments for both medium and long-term recovery, especially in the rural areas that have not received the attention they desperately need. We are particularly focused on recovery with an eye to disaster risk reduction – reducing the likelihood of lives and livelihoods being so negatively impacted by future natural disasters. This is a vital and all-too-often overlooked phase of relief and recovery. For this reason, Global Communities is meeting with companies to explore partnerships that will get the people of Puerto Rico back on their feet.

Companies can have a major impact in the relief and recovery period after a major disaster. Partnerships between corporations and NGOs are an integral part of recovery in disaster zones around the world. Here are some examples in our experience where companies have played a critical role in disaster recovery.

Haiti: The 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed hundreds of thousands and displaced many more. Global Communities’ initial response focused on immediate needs, constructing 4,940 temporary shelters, and removing a volume of debris equivalent to the Empire State Building. The debris removal project was much aided by an ongoing relationship with Caterpillar. With the local dealer, Haytrac, Global Communities had developed a training program for Haitian heavy vehicles operators which created 160 long-term jobs, including 30 women machinery operators. These operators were critical to the effective removal of debris and continued to assist with Global Communities’ shelter and settlements work after the immediate crisis.

Indonesia. With the Chevron Global Fund and USAID, following the Indonesian tsunami in 2004, Global Communities constructed a polytechnic institute in Aceh. The vocational training facility significantly boosted the economic recovery of Aceh by providing livelihoods training in demand industries for youth.

Global Communities has worked extensively with corporate partners in Nepal, Liberia, and Honduras when those countries suffered from natural disasters and catastrophic health epidemics. Numerous corporations have stepped up and provided urgently needed funds, as well as in-kind contributions, such as help with logistics, shipping, and transportation. These resources and expertise, coupled with the knowledge and experience, literally save lives, increase the pace of recovery, and reduce devastation everywhere.  If you have a corporate presence or are interested in helping Puerto Rico rebuild, as part of either immediate relief or longer-term recovery, contact Pia Wanek, Vice President of Humanitarian Assistance, at Global Communities at pwanek@globalcommunities.org  You can learn more about our approach and past work here

[Editor’s note: In addition to the great work many nonprofits like Global Communities are doing on the ground, CCC has established a partnership with the United for Puerto Rico fund, a 501(c)3 championed by the First Lady of Puerto Rico. Currently the fund is focusing on supporting individuals with drug addictions and disabilities; distributing food and provisions to the sick, disabled, and homeless population; hot meals for severely damaged communities on the northern coast; and drinkable water solutions across the island. 100% of all donations are being distributed as all overhead expenditures is being donated. If you would like to learn more about partnering with the United for Puerto Rico fund, you may reach out to Luis Davila for more information.]