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Puerto Rico: Hurricane Maria

While Hurricane Maria churned over Puerto Rico for hours on September 20, 2017, high winds uprooted trees, toppled power lines, and ripped the roofs off countless buildings. Especially in the mountainous countryside, old growth trees were stripped bare and felled; Puerto Ricans say this exposed many things, including the underlying poverty and vulnerabilities. Photo: Oxfam

Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, the island has been on a long journey toward recovery. However, while the lights are on and the water is running again in most places, there is a long way to go to reach real restoration and resilience, as well as economic prosperity and equity.

Today, countless families and communities are still waiting on federal recovery dollars to reach the island and fund rebuilding and resilience efforts. Water and power infrastructures continue to be fragile and vulnerable to even light blows; service is frequently intermittent. Oxfam is dedicated to working with partners to build back better, with innovative solutions that are more sustainable and resilient.

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Help Puerto Rico recover

Oxfam is working with local partners who were on the front lines of the emergency, moving into long-term recovery efforts to rebuild fragile infrastructure and strengthen community resources for the most vulnerable. Our efforts are smart, and strategic. At the local level, we work to help people directly--especially women and the most vulnerable. In the halls of power, we bring local leaders directly to those who make decisions about money and resources. Real change happens through action at all levels.

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Stories & updates


To the streets in Puerto Rico

Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria swept the island, Puerto Ricans are elevating their voices and vision for a better future.

How we're responding

Updated October 2019

In the two long years since Hurricane Maria struck, Puerto Ricans have dedicated themselves to rebuilding communities and restoring systems. However, the vast bulk of federal recovery funds have yet to reach the island, leaving thousands of homes without proper roofs and dozens of communities without running water.

As extreme climate events become the new norm, Oxfam is working with grassroots partner organizations to help the effort to build back more resilient and sustainable systems.

From emergency response to building back better

After the hurricane struck, Oxfam focused on working with various local partners in providing emergency help in the form of water filters, solar lights, and legal aid. Today, our focus has shifted away from immediate humanitarian aid and into the recovery phase.

Access to clean water

Training on water treatment and testing: Oxfam held workshops to train community leaders on development and application of low cost methods for water treatment and rapid water testing.

Repair of water systems: The roughly 250 communities that are off the main water system in Puerto Rico are still struggling to repair local aqueducts. Oxfam helped unite a consortium of local organizations to form the Water Alliance, which is restoring water systems in rural and isolated communities, often with solar-powered pumps.

Legal assistance

Through the Foundation for Access to Justice, Oxfam is helping to provide legal aid to families who are still trying to receive emergency funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). At first, legal aid clinics helped people file claims; now they are helping them appeal rejected claims and prove ownership.

Alternative energy solutions

In coordination with the municipalities and local community leaders, Oxfam increased the safety of women and children by providing 22,271 solar lights to households without power.

Oxfam is supporting Casa Pueblo in Adjuntas in a program to bring solar-powered systems to rural grocery stores in three isolated communities, and to households in need. Casa Pueblo has been a leader in advocating for alternative energy as vital to long-term resilience.

Advocacy in Washington, DC

Oxfam continues advocating on Capitol Hill and with the Administration, fighting for a just recovery for Puerto Rico. We have hosted numerous delegations in Washington, DC, featuring partners and local leaders from Puerto Rico who made their case directly to Members of Congress, Congressional staffers, and high-level FEMA and HUD officials.

We continue to push for more public input in the development of all recovery plans, particularly in proposed plans for CDBG-DR funds, as all community members should have a voice in how their neighborhoods are being rebuilt and how federal recovery dollars are being spent.

Research on gendered impact of humanitarian disaster

Oxfam led a research project on the gendered impact of lack of water and WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) on women in rural Puerto Rico. The resulting report, The Weight of Water on Women, provides a practical set of recommendations for humanitarian response and proposes new lines of work for a gender-sensitive WASH response.

Oxfam also commissioned research for a groundbreaking report, “Women and their voices: Strategies for survival and common strength after hurricanes Irma and María.” The report identifies the gender-specific ways women in Puerto Rico were affected by Hurricanes Irma and María, and the ways they reacted to these catastrophic events.

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Stories & updates


To the streets in Puerto Rico

Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria swept the island, Puerto Ricans are elevating their voices and vision for a better future. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+