Registered nurse Cathy Kennedy says survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico need one very important thing: water.
Kennedy works at the Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, but she took a break this month to lead a team of 50 nurses to San Juan. The National Nurses United volunteers, mostly from California, provided medical care in the capitol as well as in surrounding rural areas.
She says most people she met were hungry, and severely dehydrated.
“Water was gold," she says. "And so because of that they started seeing people that had rashes, because there was standing water so there was a lot of rashes. They noticed a lot of respiratory issues. And mainly it was they just needed access to water and food.”
RNs saw this in Vega Baja, Pueblo de Naranjitos, where residents have yet to receive any relief aid and are in dire need of water. (Courtesy of National Nurses United)
Kennedy says people were so desperate for water they started drinking it from the river, where rodents had died during the storms. She's worried about the spread of a waterborne illness called leptospirosis.
"People are gonna get sicker," she says. "What the nurses have uncovered, is that there’s still standing water. There’s black mold. There are homes that have no roofs. These are people’s homes, and they want to stay in their homes. And their health is at risk."
FEMA is providing help, but Kennedy says water and food aren't being distributed properly, and that there are long lines for aid.
She urges Californians to call Congress and insist they send more help.
"These are our people, U.S. territory, they deserve our help."
Kennedy expects the nurses will soon coordinate a return visit.
Here are a few ways to contribute to Hurricane Maria recovery efforts:
- Visit redcross.org, call1-800-RED CROSS or text the word MARIA to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
- Make a cash donation directly to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, through www.unitedforpuertorico.com
- Check out Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to find out how you can volunteer: www.nvoad.org
Correction: Due to a source error, a previous version of this story incorrectly identified the location of a photo. The photo has been removed.
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