SAN JUAN – Former President Bill Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery at the University of Miami on Tuesday.
The event brought together more than 350 government, business and civil society leaders to address immediate and long-term hurricane recovery needs.
Participants announced “Commitments to Action” such as deploying nurses to the U.S. Virgin Islands to conduct vision, hearing and dental screenings for 9,000 schools children, and a new agency in Dominica providing funding for resiliency projects.
The commitments for Puerto Rico include the “Solar Saves Lives” initiative. Direct Relief, the Hispanic Federation, The Solar Foundation and New Energy PR will install solar systems at 12 primary care clinics hit by Hurricane Maria and were identified for having extended power outages causing losses of medicines.
Training for mental health workers in Puerto Rico is another initiative. “Healing for Health Workers: Building Mental Health Capacity in Post-Maria Puerto Rico” includes an Americares commitment to train 5,000 health workers, emergency responders and social service providers over the next year and a half to address mental health challenges in the wake of Maria.
Afya Foundation, meanwhile, has committed to addressing the “urgent medical needs of elders” by collaborating with Puerto Rican social agency Acción Social to develop a long-term program. “Afya will ship three 40-foot containers of needed medical supplies and equipment to Puerto Rico to support Acción Social’s 22 Elder Care centers, which serve patients across 76 municipalities.
“Additional supplies will be kept in five storage hubs throughout the island to allow Acción Social’s care workers to replenish their supplies moving forward. Additionally, Afya will provide training and capacity building to Acción Social’s staff to strengthen their existing elder care work. This commitment will positively impact the care and quality of life of 1,200 elders on the island,” CGI explains.
For its part, International Medical Corps committed to improving access to primary healthcare for school-aged children in Puerto Rico by partnering with Med Centro to expand their health in schools program. It will procure a mobile medical unit, which will allow Med Centro to reach five additional schools. “As a result of this commitment, more than 1,000 elementary and middle school students will receive increased access to primary care services,” according to the release.
A reforestation program, “Habitat,” involves Para la Naturaleza (PLN), which has committed to launching a reforestation program aimed at “recovering the vital ecosystems” that were decimated by Maria. “Over the next seven years, PLN will maximize the production capacity its tree nurseries and plant 750,000 native and endemic trees, which are more resilient to natural phenomena” and will provide “assessment and maintenance” of the planted areas for five years “to ensure an 80% tree survival rate.”
PLN says it will “engage 100,000 volunteers in this effort, and will also provide educational programming to build the capacity of local communities in sound environmental practices” to help restore the island’s flora to “improve watershed and soil health, and protect the habitat of endangered species,” according to the release.
“In the wake of the terrible hurricanes, the people of these islands have shown a remarkable resilience and a resolve to do long-term work and build back better,” Clinton said. “When I went to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Dominica, I was struck by both the determination and the positive attitude of the people there. We are here to do what we can to help these people build communities that are stronger, safer, more prosperous, and more resilient.”
Clinton also announced he would issue a challenge to members of the Action Network to “pre-position relief supplies for the upcoming hurricane season.” The network’s launch announcement says estimates show “every $1 spent on preparedness saves $4 in response and recovery spending, pre-positioning relief supplies, and establishing logistics and distribution channels, can help resources be deployed more efficiently in the event of a disaster.”
The meeting convened leaders such as Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Commonwealth of Dominica; Irwin LaRocque, secretary-general, Caribbean Community (Caricom); USVI Gov. Kenneth Mapp; Jenniffer González-Colón, resident commissioner, Puerto Rico; Stacey Plaskett, USVI delegate to the U.S House of Representatives; San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz; Canovanas Mayor Lornna Soto; Ponce Mayor Mayita Meléndez; Morovis Mayor Carmen Maldonado; Utuado Mayor Ernesto Irizarry Salvá; and Guayanilla Mayor Torres Yordán.
Also participating in the initiative were Lynn Jurich, CEO, Sunrun; Andrea Luecke, executive director, The Solar Foundation; Denis O’Brien, chairman of Digicel; José María Figueres Olsen, former president of Costa Rica, and co-founder, Ocean Unite; Hugh Riley, secretary general and CEO, Caribbean Tourism Organization; Thomas F. Secunda, founding partner, vice chairman & global head of financial products & services, Bloomberg LP; Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president, Rockefeller Foundation; and Sally Yearwood, executive director, Caribbean Central American Action.
The Action Network says it will continue to meet in person on a quarterly basis, and builds upon the CGI Action Network model – “for example, the Haiti Action Network, which began 10 years ago when four hurricanes devastated the country and continued through the devastating 2010 earthquake, has led to 130 Commitments to Action in Haiti worth more than $500 million when fully funded and implemented, in areas including health, education, energy, agriculture, and infrastructure,” the release reads.
CGI intends to bring together members “who can lend their resources, materials, expertise, and support to a broad effort that already includes engagement from Operation Blessing, Airlink, Federal Surplus Company, Solight, J/P Haitian Relief Organization, Americares, and World Central Kitchen.”