Distribution slows Puerto Rico humanitarian efforts

PUERTO RICO (KTVU) - As the conditions worsen in Puerto Rico, so do the challenges in getting some much needed aid to the 3.5 million Americans there.

We’re now learning that thousands of containers are sitting at the port because there aren’t enough trucks to distribute the goods.

There seems to be no end in sight. For the people who are sick, struggling to find food or on their last bucket of water, the situation is dire.

Half of the island is without safe drinking water, food is rationed and getting those basic necessities is a lot more difficult than they thought.

Right now there are nearly 10,000 shipping containers sitting at San Juan’s port just waiting to go out. The containers are filled with food, medical supplies, construction materials, anything you can buy at the pharmacy or grocery store. It’s the same necessities stores are forced to ration…with people standing in line for hours to buy. The problem is with distribution.

Puerto Rico doesn’t have enough truck drivers to get those containers shipped to the stores and businesses that desperately need it. Right now, only 20 percent of their truck drivers have reported back to work after Hurricane Maria. Some have lost their homes and their trucks. Others are unreachable because of the communication challenges.

Turns out the Red Cross is facing those same distribution problems in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Not only are they having trouble distributing goods to parts of the island because of infrastructure issues, but fuel remains a problem and their volunteers are waiting in those long lines for hours like the rest of the residents.

We caught up with the regional director Thursday to talk about dispersion, how much money is allocated for Hurricane Maria and to address some of the concerns people had, with sending donations to the red cross.

It seems some people were worried about donating money to the Red Cross, saying they didn’t know how they were dispersing those donations.

The Red Cross says 91 cents of every dollar donated, is spent on humanitarian services which includes water, meals ready to eat, basic first aid and transportation costs. It also covers satellite equipment and reconnection services.
The other nine cents goes to administration costs.

We’re now learning that 50 radio operators are heading to the shelters in Puerto Rico to finally give relief to the many families wondering if their loved ones are alive.

“Their main purpose is really as we go out into these communities, to take down names of people we’ve contacted, go down to the shelters to gather that information and relay that information of people who are safe in shelters or in communities to teams in Miami that will put that into our Safe and Well database. It’s a website that people in the us can search to see if their loved ones are safe and well,” said Red Cross Spokesperson, Cynthia Shaw.

The Red Cross has nearly 500 volunteers supporting relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  They already sent 5,000 comfort kits, blankets and cleanup kits…that included items like hygiene products and diapers. In Puerto Rico, they’ll be sending an additional 19,000 comfort kits, as well as several thousand tarps, flashlights, batteries, blankets, and hand sanitizers.

We’re hearing it could take years for Puerto Rico to recover. Cash donations are greatly needed.
If you would like to donate to the Red Cross’ relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, call 1-800 red cross, visit redcross.org or text the word Maria to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

United for Puerto Rico is another reputable charity organized by the governor of Puerto Rico.

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