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Junk food, dirty water, and disease: A month later Puerto Rico is still suffering

How would you feel if your government provided you with whack food during a disastrous time? How long would you last on canned Vienna sausages, a squished Nutri-Grain bar, and a bag of cooked Skittles?

Consider eating that meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I would only last a couple of days. Even if you were able to survive off of a candy, granola, and canned sausage diet, that wouldn’t exactly be the healthiest meal to eat for a month.

Weeks after Hurricane Maria, thousands of Puerto Ricans are surviving on just that – junk food. FEMA rations look like they are the contents of a “college vending machine,” as reported by the Washington Post.

Journalist Josh Sanchez tweeted a photo of the ration package earlier this month. It was retweeted over 19,000 times out of disgust.

Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré, who commanded the head of Joint Task Force during Katrina, slammed the federal response to Puerto Rico.

He expressed his disgust via Facetime with Sanchez.

It doesn’t make sense. Why would we treat other human beings facing a disaster like this? Beats me. There’s no excuse as to why people should be living off of “beef jerky, Cheez-Its, and shelf stable tuna chunks.”

According to the WaPo report, in a public appearance on October 20, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz rifled through a federal shipment of chocolate pudding and other snack foods before throwing the box aside in disgust.

Experts are saying that critics don’t understand how emergency food works. Most of PR is still without power and “junk food” is said to be a part of the solution.

Jarrod Goentzel, the head of the Humanitarian Response Lab at MIT, said,

“It’s a delicate dance, but it’s not as if they’re shipping in boatloads of candy.”

There is some confusion as to which food packages were provided by FEMA. Eighty other relief organizations are operating on the island and local leaders have opened and repacked aid boxes before handing them out.

That hasn’t stopped people from roasting FEMA on social media. They provided no rebuttal to the concerning social scorn, but instead stressed, “The agency and its partners are distributing more than 2 million meals per week on the island of 3.4 million people.”

The “junk food” rations definitely raise questions of concern.

But, nearly 1 million Americans in Puerto Rico are still without drinkable water. The Huffington Post reported that in desperation, thirsty patrons have succumbed to drinking from hazardous wells at Superfund sites.

Some have even been drinking from creeks that sick animals have urinated in. This contaminated water is in direct correlation with the 74 reported cases of leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is the result of contact with water contaminated by animal urine. The disease’s symptoms are varied. They include high fever, jaundice, red eyes, and body pain.

There is the threat of more cases being reported. After a person has been exposed to contaminated water it can take anywhere between two days and four weeks for symptoms to appear.

The CDC stated that some people might not even show any symptoms at all.

Four deaths are being investigated as possible causes of the disease, according to the Associated Press. What’s even more upsetting is that officials have yet to call it an epidemic or a confirmed outbreak.

Still, President Trump says we are doing a “great job.” At a White House event last week with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Trump said,

“I’d say it was a 10. I give ourselves a 10. … We have provided so much, so fast. We were actually there before the storm hit.”

At that time, 30 percent of the island was still without drinking water and 80 percent was still without power. The government data is updated daily but HuffPo reports that volunteers on the island say the situation is grimmer.

In the words of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, “We need to get our shit together.”

It’s never too late to lend a helping hand to the victims suffering in PR. Donate here today.