Nairy Maysonet sat by the edge of a Puerto Rican mountain highway washing laundry in a drainage ditch. Nearby, a school teacher joined a stream of residents who stopped to fill bottles, buckets and plastic storage bins from a rainwater runoff pipe.
Weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, most still lack electricity and many don’t have access to safe, clean water. Maysonet struggles to cook and bathe, and she shook her head explaining that stomach viruses from bad water are spreading in her small town.
“We need clean water, so it’s very hard,” she said on Wednesday, wringing out a shirt as trucks roared past the mountainside and one man soaped up nearby for a bath. “Some places you can buy water, other days no water.”
Louisville-based WaterStep is currently on the ground to help, arriving October 10 in the town of Vega Alta to provide water purification systems including M100 chlorine generators, 500-gallon bladder tanks, filters, pumps and bleachmakers and the training to operate them in 22 hard-hit and remot municipalities.
WaterStep founder Mark Hogg said Wednesday, the first of two days of training, that he hopes to find funding to deploy them to all 78 municipalities, bringing safe water for thousands in areas where bottled water hasn’t sufficiently reached until water systems can be repaired.
Update and photos from the field, by Chris Kenning.
WaterStep is currently on the ground to help, arriving October 10 in the town of Vega Alta to provide water purification systems including M100 chlorine generators, 500-gallon bladder tanks, filters, pumps and bleachmakers and the training to operate them in 22 hard-hit and remote municipalities.
The WaterStep team is staying at the Presbyterian Church in Vega Alta, its roof damaged by the storm, sleeping in tents and on camping pads in a breezeway with electricity from a generator. On the first day of training, dozens showed up from municipalities in hard-hit areas. As they learned how to purify water, officials from General Electric Appliances and local media visited the site. Friday will bring the second day of training. So far, the WaterStep effort has drawn an outpouring of support from the community, including volunteer translators.
Puerto Rico is in a state of crisis and WaterStep is responding by sending equipment to provide safe drinking water and disinfectant. In the wake of Hurricane Maria mass flooding and destruction have put thousands of people on the island at risk for disease and children are dying from dehydration. Puerto Rico officials have identified safe water as a top priority. Puerto Rican survivors need safe water in order to survive, manage this disaster, maintain good health, and rebuild their communities.
Through generous partners like Agape Flights, G.E. Appliances and the Puerto Rican Leadership Council, WaterStep is sending its first 20 Disaster Relief Kits to San Juan, Puerto Rico next week. The city officials of San Juan will accept the equipment and provide security for the equipment, and our WaterStep Disaster Relief Team. Once the equipment and team are in country, WaterStep will hold a training event where they will educate emergency response teams on the operation of the Disaster Relief Kits.
When disaster strikes:
Medical care cannot be safely administered without proper sanitation.
Families who managed to survive the disaster are at risk of death by waterborne illness.
Displaced individuals are now at risk of losing their identities.
Collapse of infrastructure also causes collapse in income and education.
WaterStep has created and deployed affordable, effective and sustainable solutions in various international disasters since 2009. At the onset of any disaster, many agencies work hard to collect and deliver bottled water to disaster survivors. Though an important step, there are critical problems with bottled water long term – it’s expensive, heavy, and it’s not sustainable. Three cases of bottled water weighs 90lbs, and WaterStep’s disaster relief kit weighs >100lbs and can produce thousands of gallons of safe drinking water each day.
Support the survivors by providing access to safe water and sanitation by donating NOW. When giving online, please write Disaster Relief in the additional comments section. Please follow @WaterStep on social media to receive updates on their disaster relief work in Puerto Rico.
Questions? Please contact CEO & Founder, Mark Hogg.
WaterStep welcomed Princess Nisreen El-Hashemite to our international headquarters with open arms. Dr. Nisreen received the 2017 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award. She established the World Women’s Health and Development Forum at the United Nations, is the founder of the Women in Science International League, the founder of MUTE International Program and a co-founder of the Culture for Peace Program. She also was the “catalyst” for the UN General Assembly proclaiming Feb. 11 the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
Amazing feeling knowing a shipment of WaterStep’s safe water tools and other supplies is on the way to Venice, Florida to aid those affected by Hurricane Irma! We’re working with Phos Community Church who organized a community drop off event last night and Agape Flights who is transporting and distributing these supplies to the most critical areas in South Florida and the Caribbean. Two of our award-winning M-100 chlorine generators will be used to produce safe water for drinking, showering and cooking, and four of our bleach makers will be used to provide disinfectant for cleaning and sanitizing.