Direct Relief

Hurricane Maria Hit Close to Home for Puerto Rico Health Worker

All disasters are personal. That’s certainly the case for Yesenia Ortiz and her family. Their home in Arroyo was badly damaged when Hurricane Maria swept through the mountainous community on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico, directly in the path of winds that reached more than 155 miles per hour.

Direct Relief staff met Ortiz and her family in December, as her father, Pedro, was in the process of tearing down what was left of the family home’s second story.

Ortiz is a health records clerk at the community’s health center, the Centro Salud Familiar Clinic. Her job is the family’s primary source of income.

Health centers play a key role in disasters, and many times, staff there become first responders. Because many also live locally to where they work, they become victims themselves, experience loss of property or being displaced from their homes. Cash grants from Direct Relief’s hurricane community health fund went to clinics, allowing them to use the money for costs not otherwise covered by federal funds or insurance while staff work to bring the clinics back to full strength. Centro Salud Familiar Clinic, where Ortiz works, received a grant of $25,000 to use towards these costs.

Since Hurricane Maria made landfall, Direct Relief has provided over $60 million worth of material assistance to more than 50 nonprofit health centers, public health facilities, hospitals, emergency medical teams, and local nonprofit organizations in Puerto Rico. The organization has also granted $1.48 million in funding for solar projects, equipment procurement, vaccination campaigns, and emergency operations funding. In addition, Direct Relief has allocated $5 million for direct financial assistance in the coming months and remains committed to assisting ongoing recovery.