Clinton Foundation Activates Hurricane-Recovery Commitments
SAN JUAN – The Clinton Foundation, through its Global Initiative (CGI) Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery, this week convened a meeting with leaders from business, government and civil society to make “Commitments to Action” to help communities in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean nations recover from the devastating 2017 hurricane season and rebuild in a sustainable and resilient way.
During their third meeting with the CGI at the Convention Center, President Bill Clinton, founder & chair of the Clinton Foundation, revealed a list of Commitments to Action. These are projects that address critical issues facing the region, such as food security, access to healthcare, small-business support, sustainable tourism and renewable energy.
The organization revealed more than 50 commitments to continue recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean region.
“One of the things that will come out of this Action Network, when fully funded, is about $8 million in green construction and building, the renovation of nearly 200 community facilities, 130 of them with solar components,” Clinton said.
The list of commitments for Puerto Rico include one from Inclusiv (the new name of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions) to rebuild Puerto Rico’s community development financial sector to become more effective agents for redevelopment and resilience work on the island; Keystone Policy Center’s commitment to working with the local Education Department to recruit employers who will partner with Education to design and offer apprenticeships, internships and other work-based learning (WBL) opportunities for high-school students in Puerto Rico.
Another commitment was from Voz Activa and their partners to create the first community-owned solar power source in the Caguas community of San Salvador; and the P.R. Disability Community Relief Network (PRDCRN). The PRDCRN, a consortium of five Puerto Rican organizations focused on the well-being of the disability communities, will implement a training program for private, government and nonprofit entities in Puerto Rico on how to incorporate the needs of people with disabilities into disaster preparedness and response work.
To address the mental health service gap for older adults in Puerto Rico and the USVI, International Medical Corps will collaborate with partners to deliver trainings to about 255 health staff on mental health care for older adults.
Along with Chef José Andrés, World Central Kitchen will extend their plow-to-plate program, which reduces food insecurity in Puerto Rico by offering direct funding and partnerships to food-related small businesses and small-holder businesses. On the other hand, Foundation for Puerto Rico is expanding its Bottom Up Destination Recovery Program, which is currently being implemented in two municipalities in Puerto Rico to build resiliency and economic opportunity for 24 new communities on the island.
Para la Naturaleza has committed to launching Habitat, a comprehensive reforestation and habitat restoration program in Puerto Rico that aims to plant 750,000 native and endemic trees that are more resilient to natural phenomena, such as hurricanes, and provide assessment and maintenance of newly planted areas. Americares has committed to address mental health challenges in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria by providing training to 5,000 health workers, emergency responders and social service providers across the island. The Solar Foundation has committed to the installation of a solar+storage system to address the need for reliable, resilient energy for the Río Piedras farmers’ market in San Juan.
Finally, the International Medical Corps is committed to supporting primary health care for school-age children in Puerto Rico by procuring an additional Mobile Medical Unit for Med Centro Healthcare System, allowing them to reach an additional five elementary and middle schools with comprehensive preventive health screenings, and provide training and capacity building to all Med Centro staff.
Clinton moderated a panel that discussed what they did to help Puerto Rico recover. One of the panelists was Chef José Andrés, a founder of World Central Kitchen, who since the storm hit in 2017, has provided 3.4 million meals in Puerto Rico through the assistance of 19,000 volunteers.
“We came for five, six days to see the situation…go back home…. But we saw that, really, the hurricane was very destructive. We got phone calls from hospitals, elderly homes, and we kept cooking,” he said. It went from one kitchen the first day to hundreds across the island. “In the process, we were trying to feed an island.”
The chef noted the private-sector’s role has been the “unsung hero” in recovery efforts, providing a lot of the food that he cooked.
The organization is now helping small farms with funds to help develop projects, so Puerto Rico can eventually stop depending on food imports, Andrés said, citing food security concerns because the island imports 90 percent of its food.
“World Central Kitchen will be committing, with help from partners like you, $4 million so we can impact at least 200 farms across the island, believing that farming is what gives resilience to places like Puerto Rico,” he said.
Patricia Scotland, secretary-general of the Commonwealth of Nations, which represents more than 50 former British colonies, said the group is focusing on dealing with climate change, recognizing that some people still do not believe it exists. “The existential threat is real…. We have seen the impact. We have seen mudslides, hurricanes across the Caribbean, cyclones in the Pacific…. The whole world suffered in 2017,” she said.
Mark Okerstrom, CEO of Expedia Group, said the travel platform has engaged with partners across the Caribbean to rebuild, not just the tourism sector, but infrastructure as well.
“Our support of the Caribbean countries goes well beyond what we can do beyond travel and tourism. We partnered to install solar panels in Dominica, so if there’s another disaster they can get up and running and have the foundation to rebuild,” he said.
He said Expedia has teamed up with the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. to help promote the island as a destination for the more than 675 million visitors of its website.
“We’re making sure the world was aware that Puerto Rico needs them to come and visit, maybe help, but also see the amazing sites it has to offer,” he said, adding that 18 months after disaster, the Caribbean has gotten back to 2016 levels, but has yet to grow to high levels.
Dominica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Francine Baron, said the small island-nation is still in the process of recovering from the 2017 hurricanes that destroyed the island and is vying to become the first “climate-resilient nation in the world.”
Dominica created an agency whose sole focus is on making the island resilient not only to natural events but also from other environmental factors, such as flooding and landslides, because it has numerous lakes, rivers and mountains.