Five years following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is reeling from Hurricane Fiona, which unleashed heavy rains, winds and mudslides on the island and left most households without electricity or usage of running water.
The picture as a whole: Black and Latino communities in the U.S. have always been burdened by the disproportionate impacts of climate change. Fiona is not any exception.
Driving the news headlines: Puerto Rico still hasnt fully recovered from 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which led to thousands of deaths and the longest power outage in U.S. history, an Associated Press investigation found.
- Now, the island is grappling using what Gov. Pedro Pierluisi calls Fionas “catastrophic” harm to its vulnerable infrastructure. Based on the federal response, another steps could mitigate existing racial and socioeconomic disparities or exacerbate them.
The backstory: Federal disaster relief has long fallen short in measures of equity. Research demonstrates that unequal recovery efforts following extreme disaster events have contributed to lasting racial and social divides.
- To begin with, communities of color are less inclined to receive disaster relief aid, particularly when in comparison to white, affluent households, and the communities they reside in, in accordance with FEMA’s 2020 National Advisory Council report.
- And a 2018 study published in a journal for the American Sociological Association discovered that race-based wealth inequality increases with the expense of damages from natural hazards.
- The analysis found that just how FEMA funding had been administered to counties experiencing hazards resulted in white residents increasing wealth, while Black, Latino and Asian populations lost it.
- Plus, it’s probably to be wealthy white residents not residents of color who relocate to less hazard-prone areas following a hurricane, in accordance with a 2016 study examining the impacts of hurricanes on population change in the Gulf Coast between 1970 and 2005.
Hurricanes leave lasting scars by disrupting public health insurance and healthcare delivery, in accordance with Carlos Rodrguez-Daz, a public health scientist and associate professor at George Washington University.
- Hospitals turn off, and patients care is halted by power outages an integral issue in Puerto Rico following Maria.
- Additionally, there are dire shortages of medical supplies like saline solution, in addition to harm to infrastructure like water and sewage systems which deepens pre-existing healthcare inequities.
- These compound with existing threats, like polluting of the environment, which communities of color are most exposed to because of historic discriminatory practices like redlining and exclusionary housing policies.
Between your lines: Having led on-the-ground research on the aftermath of Maria and its own predecessor Irma, and being Puerto Rican himself, Rodrguez-Daz sees the heavily criticized Trump administrations response and the ensuing healthcare crisis as something of systemic racism and the hawaiian islands colonization.
- He compares Maria with a nearly simultaneous disaster reaction to Hurricane Harvey in Texas, which a Politico investigation revealed resulted in a “faster, and initially, greater” response effort, regardless of the significantly larger demand and scale of damage in Puerto Rico.
- How are we likely to… [provide] the resources to communities which are surviving in disaster-prone areas to possess options, to call home elsewhere without displacement? Rodrguez-Daz asked within an interview with Axios.
Flashback: In 2015, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, 90% of New Orleans residents had returned but only 37% of residents from the low 9th Ward, a predominantly Black neighborhood, had keep coming back, the liberal Center for American Progress noted in a written report.
- Following a storm, Black survivors of Katrina more often reported issues with finances, physical and mental health than white survivors, based on the Journal of Black Studies.
What theyre saying: Folks of color and folks from low-wealth households do not get the opportunity to recover, particularly if they’re in spaces which are constantly confronted with disasters, Cassandra Davis of the University of NEW YORK at Chapel Hill tells Axios.
- Davis happens to be dealing with FEMA through funding from the Department of Homeland Security on a project examining inequitable distribution of disaster aid. Once we consider recovery, short and longterm, they’re more prone to be left out.
What were watching: By continuing to acknowledge social injustice and concentrating on who’s being overlooked of relief which FEMA addressed in a written report earlier this season pressing gaps in disaster recovery could be filled, in accordance with Davis.
- As an initial step, Davis hopes that begins with the U.S. emergency reaction to Fiona.