Friday, May 03, 2019

The Truth about Hurricane Maria and the Need For Climate Activism

Today, May 3, 2019, is an appropriate day for me to post these terrible news on Hurricane María's death toll numbers.  This is truly sad and horrific given that U.S. support in its aftermath has been woefully insufficient.  

Plus, today is a day for climate activism for youth in various countries throughout the world.  Check out Youth Climate Strike for information and updates.  

While you're at it, also do listen to this powerful show—my March 2, 2019 post—with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! The news is about Senator Dianne Feinstein's condescending response that went viral after getting asked by a group of children whether she would support a Green New Deal.

Our planet is in trouble and our children are leading since our adults in power are mostly not.  I salute their courage and sense of urgency and hope that you do, as well.

-Angela Valenzuela

 A mother holds her nine-month-old baby at their makeshift home, under reconstruction after being mostly destroyed by Hurricane Maria, in San Isidro, Puerto Rico, on 23 December 2017. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

More than half of young people in Puerto Rico saw a friend or family member leave the island after Hurricane Maria, according to a study published on Friday which reveals the dramatic extent to which young Puerto Ricans were exposed to damaged homes, shortages of food and water and threats to their lives.
In contrast to most comparable disasters, the physical and mental effects of the category four storm which hit the island in September 2017 were “nearly ubiquitous regardless of geographical location or socioeconomic status”, according to a study about its impact on young Puerto Ricans published on Friday in the journal Jama Network Open.
“The magnitude was so large that all children were exposed,” said Joy Lynn Suárez, a psychology professor at Carlos Albizu University in San Juan and a report co-author.
The death toll from Maria is estimated at between 2,975 and 4,645. The storm cut nearly all communication across the island and destroyed the power grid.
Those who survived still feared for their lives. According to the new study, 30% of children reported that they perceived their lives or the lives of people they loved to be at risk – a strong predictor of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Researchers tied to Puerto Rico government agencies and universities also found:
The study is one of the largest attempts in US history to survey young people after a major natural disaster. It is also the largest sample ever of Hispanic youth impacted by disaster, a group underrepresented in existing research.Nearly 100,000 of 226,800 Puerto Rican students eligible for the study were surveyed from 1 February to 29 June 2018, in the island’s seven education districts. Overall, about 6,900 students, 7.2%, reported “clinically significant” symptoms of PTSD.
Suárez said the report showed the need for evidence-based mental health services“This study shows significant evidence of the need for additional funding to hire and train mental health professionals who can provide evidence-based therapies for children in need,” she wrote in an email.
“It also means that we really need to pay attention to preparedness for future disasters and making sure all this potential disaster related exposure – that agencies have a plan of how to be prepared and be able to provide support if this ever happens again.”

Before the hurricane, Puerto Rico’s population was declining due to recession. The hurricane inspired another exodus. About 4% of the population – 130,000 people – left the island after Hurricane Maria, according to the US census.
In the survey, 57.8% of respondents said a family member or friend had left Puerto Rico after the hurricane.
Months-long school closures left children isolated. At home, many were sheltered indoors, to protect them from downed trees, precarious structures and snapped electric cables. Electricity outages splintered communication and access to television and cellphones.
Erica Vera, a social worker in a New York state school district, said Puerto Rican children who left for the mainland after Maria showed signs of emotional distress.
“A lot of kids have a fear that this will happen again and a lot of them have nightmares about it,” Vera said.
She said children were still moving to New York from Puerto Rico because of Maria. A majority of such students she has evaluated did not move with their parents, but to live with family members already based on the mainland.
“What really hurt me was the concern of these young kids who are seven to eight years old, them being so scared for their uncles and grandmothers,” Vera said. “I think it’s a feeling that the family is not safe over there.
“The feeling of loss and concern of these young kids for the safety and resources that the family members they left behind haunts them.”

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