Despite desperate shortages, US fails to mount robust response in Puerto Rico


Since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on September 20th, the island’s 3.4 million residents have been struggling simply to survive.

High winds and heavy rains washed out roads and bridges, ripped apart houses, and took down the entire electrical grid, leaving practically the entire territory without electricity for communications, refrigeration, and other necessities. Fuel is in short supply, most people still lack access to clean water, many hospitals are closed, and even cash is becoming scarce.

While the US government is engaged in relief efforts, it has failed to address the most urgent needs.

“Oxfam has monitored the response in Puerto Rico closely, and we are outraged at the slow and inadequate response the US Government has mounted,” said Oxfam America’s president Abby Maxman. “Oxfam rarely responds to humanitarian emergencies in the US and other wealthy countries, but as the situation in Puerto Rico worsens and the federal government’s response continues to falter, we have decided to step in.”

Oxfam is pursuing a two-pronged approach:

  • work with Puerto Rican leaders to advocate with Congress and federal agencies for a better, faster, and more inclusive response to the crisis, and
  • Oxfam will channel vital resources and give technical support to the right people on the front lines, including the local government and local organizations that were there as this emergency struck and that will be there for the long road to recovery.  

We know first responders and agencies have been working around the clock and are stretched thin after a string of disasters. We are calling for more support and resources so they, along with local groups, can scale up the response and reach the most vulnerable people who are still in the midst of a real crisis.

“The US has more than enough resources to mobilize an emergency response, said Maxman, “but has failed to do so in a swift and robust manner.”

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