Negin Jenati 203.212.0044 (M)
Claire Garmirian 203.209.8545 (M)
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (September 22, 2017)— As Puerto Rico begins to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Maria, the most destructive storm to strike the island since 1928, Save the Children is urging all emergency teams responding to the crisis to make the safety and well-being of the island’s nearly 700,000 children a top priority.
"Hundreds of thousands of children in Puerto Rico could be at risk right now as a result of this horrendous storm," said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children. "Many have lost everything. They are very scared. We need to help these children. We need to keep them safe."
"The initial damage reports are devastating," added Miles. "More than 3.4 million people live on the island, including almost 700,000 children. Nearly everyone right now lacks electricity and access to phone service. Trees and power lines are down everywhere. Hurricane winds and flood waters have destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, and everyone on the island is struggling to figure out what they do next."
While acknowledging that emergency responders in Puerto Rico are facing unprecedented challenges, including assisting more than 12,000 people living in shelters, Miles said emergency responders must not overlook the needs of children, who are extremely vulnerable following a major disaster and can be left emotionally scarred without adequate care.
"The immediate priority is to make sure children are safe, that they are with family members or friends and have access to food, water and shelter, including safe, supervised places for children to relax and to play," said Miles. "The next priority is to get children back into school. Returning to their regular routine of going to school each day can have a tremendous, positive impact on children as they recover from this catastrophe."
Save the Children’s emergency response team is assembling in Miami preparing to deploy to Puerto Rico with Child Friendly Space kits and baby and toddler items that will be given to families and children in need. "We are in touch with federal authorities and partners on the ground and will be conducting immediate assessments to identify where and how we can best help children and families impacted by the storm," said Miles. "We will also be developing a long-term recovery plan for children and their families."
To learn more and to support Save the Children’s Hurricane Maria response, please visit: www.SavetheChildren.org/Maria.
Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.