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Hurricane Fiona: Solar Energy Sustains Health Care in Puerto Rico

  • December 2, 2022
  • Newsroom, Puerto Rico, Strengthening Health Care
  • 2018. Peñuelas Med Centro Health Center, Solar Panel installation.

In September, after Hurricane Fiona battered Puerto Rico with wind and rain, Wendy Morales made sure her family was safe. Then, as administrator of the Migrant Health Center in Yauco, Puerto Rico, she turned her attention to the community’s health needs.

One issue that Morales didn’t have to worry about: electrical power. While Fiona knocked out power to much of the island, including Yauco, Migrant Health Center had electricity for essential equipment, thanks to a solar power system Americares had installed in 2018.

Solar panels being installed on roof of clinic with two installers in yellow vests and one americares staff in blue shirt visible in drone view
Peñuelas Med Centro Health Center, Solar Panel installation.

During the week the community was without power, Migrant Health Center operated entirely by solar energy and was open for the 7,000 patients it serves. “This has been an excellent donation, because it gives us the opportunity to continue services and preserve refrigerated medicines and vaccines,” says Morales. “I’ve been in the clinic industry for 11 years, and it was the first time a nonprofit came forward to give us a donation like that.”

Administrator in blue shirt and jeans pointing out power panels inside clinic
The Administrator of the Migrant Health Center in Yauco, Puerto Rico, Wendy Morales, gives a tour of the solar panel system at the facility. Migrant Health Center clinics are partners of Americares’ Thriving Local Health Center (TLHC) in which they have taken MHPSS workshops, IPC, and received technical assistance. November 4, 2022 (Photo/Americares)

Generators are useful, to a point. “We live on an island, and everything comes by sea. If the barges cannot bring gas [to power generators], we worry about how long we will have a fuel supply,” says Morales.

With Americares support, Morales and her team are prepared for climate emergencies and able to focus on their patients.  In response to Hurricane Fiona, Americares Puerto Rico also provided partners across the island with medicine and relief supplies, including insulin and hygiene kits, psychosocial support and funding for excess costs caused by the hurricane, such as costs for fuel during the power outage.