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For any additional questions about republishing Direct Relief content, please email the team here.

Direct Relief Convenes 15 Caribbean Nations to Discuss Climate Change and Impacts on Health


Puerto Rico

Direct Relief CEO Thomas Tighe (center) speaks with healthcare officials and representatives of Caribbean nations at the Caribbean Resilient Summit in Puerto Rico.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – Today, humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief met with top health officials from 15 Caribbean nations to discuss increased collaboration of emergency response activities and risk mitigation due to an increase in the frequency and intensity of disasters and emergencies across the region.

The summit brought more than 40 leaders from across the Caribbean together to hear from medical and industry experts on the increased risk of disasters and the threats such events pose to health infrastructure in hurricane-prone areas around the region.

Ivonne Rodríguez-Wiewall, Direct Relief’s Executive Advisor for Puerto Rico, and Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief President and CEO, talk with Dr. Carlos Mellado, Secretary of Health, Government of Puerto Rico, and Most Honourable Mrs. Juliet Holness, First Lady and Member of Parliament, Government of Jamaica.

As ocean temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, so has the severity of the hurricanes that batter the Caribbean region year after year. The Caribbean experienced 70 named tropical storms across 19 countries between 1980 and 2019.

In response, Direct Relief has provided support to Caribbean health initiatives, including medical refrigeration, solar power, and requested medical supplies. By providing aid and logistical assistance before, during, and after hurricanes and tropical storms, Direct Relief has responded in the contiguous U.S. and Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Barbados, Cuba, St. Maarten, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, Antigua, and Jamaica.

“Governments worldwide have significant challenges in this post-covid moment, facing intensifying natural events that pose great risks to this region,” said Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief. “We deeply appreciate these leaders being here to share their perspectives on how private philanthropy can assist them to better prepare and respond to disasters in the Caribbean.”

Direct Relief CEO Thomas Tighe speaks with Mr. Félix Lizasuaín, Deputy Secretary of the Puerto Rico State Department at the Caribbean Resilient Summit in Puerto Rico.

Since establishing the Puerto Rico office in 2017 to support Hurricane Maria response, Direct Relief has facilitated the implementation of over 400 projects to strengthen Puerto Rico’s healthcare system through its health center network and other local nonprofit organizations. With an investment of more than $120 million, including grant funding and requested medical aid, the organization has expanded healthcare services for vulnerable communities across the island and bolstered emergency preparedness capacity at health facilities.

Now, Direct Relief has unveiled Puerto Rico as a hub for Caribbean emergency response, with over 25 tons of emergency medical supplies staged on the island and ready for deployment to neighboring Caribbean islands facing impacts from disasters and emergencies.

As part of Direct Relief’s efforts to support disaster response in the region, the Hurricane Preparedness Program features the deployment of large caches of the medical items most needed in the wake of a disaster, including trauma supplies, antibiotics, and wound care supplies, as well as medications for diabetes, hypertension, and respiratory, psychological, and gastrointestinal ailments. The Hurricane Preparedness Packs weigh 1,470 lbs. and are designed to provide enough medical supplies to care for 1,000 people for 30 days.

This year, 18 countries in the Northern Hemisphere, including Anguilla, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, and St. Lucia will receive the Hurricane Preparedness Packs from Direct Relief.

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