Vector Control Experts Sought for Onsite Aid in Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

puerto rico hurricane aftermath

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico (above) and the U.S. Virgin Islands are in need of assistance in vector-control efforts. (Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., via Flickr/U.S. Department of Agriculture)

The hurricanes that slammed the Caribbean this fall are long gone, but recovery efforts are, of course, ongoing. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are in need of assistance in re-establishing their vector control infrastructure and responding to the heightened need for vector management in post-hurricane conditions.

This week, the Caribbean Emergency Vector Response Network, a grassroots effort to coordinate aid formed shortly after the hurricanes, issued a call for volunteers to deploy to Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide vector control assistance. The Entomological Society of America’s Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology Section received the call and encourages any interested volunteers to contact the Network organizers to indicate their willingness to serve.

Below is the full letter from Caribbean Emergency Vector Response Network with details about planned deployments and how to volunteer:

Dear Colleagues –

I want to thank you for your support of the Caribbean Emergency Vector Response Network (“the Network”) to date. The outpouring of support from the members of this group has been both generous and timely.

We’ve been able to raise more than $300,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, connect resources to requirements, and distribute information between, about, and on behalf of three countries/territories and two U.S. territories representing more than four million people. Our group now extends beyond 60 senior leaders from throughout our unique ecosystem. It’s time to get operational.

Organizing First Deployments – Preparing Deployment Teams Alpha, Bravo and Charlie

As you’ve heard on our weekly calls, we’ve been cautious about how we send in teams to support our colleagues. We’ve wanted to secure their interests and their “green lights” before mobilizing anyone or anything. To that end, we’ve been working with the teams in both the U.S. Virgin Islands and at the Puerto Rico Vector Control Unit to determine what type of support they would need from experts willing to deploy in support of their recovery efforts. As of today, both organizations have asked us to help organize volunteer deployment groups.

We have green lights from both USVI and PRVCU to organize deployment teams. Seeing that this is still an effort in development, we’re going to form three deployment teams comprised of qualified individuals willing to travel to USVI and/or Puerto Rico in the coming weeks and months. We will form a third team comprised of individuals with flexibility as to the where, when, and duration. As of now, there is no financial support for travel. We’re working on funding for accommodations. See below for more on these topics.

Deployment Team Alpha – USVI

Deployment Team Bravo – Puerto Rico

Deployment Team Charlie – Stand-by/Contingency

Attached to this letter are details about each deployment team.

We ask that you consider the following:

  1. Please consider volunteering; this is a unique opportunity to play an important role in the greater disaster response;
  2. Please know that each territory can only absorb a few people at a time, so we’re going to allow them to make selections based on expertise needed; if you aren’t picked up on one of the first deployments, we’ll work to get you attached to subsequent deployments if your expertise is in demand;

Your support is critical now. We know that normal lives, jobs, and the usual financial constraints impact everyone. But as of now, this is a unique opportunity to support our colleagues and provide direct assistance on public health challenges that are unfortunate hallmarks in the aftermath of hurricanes. This also allows us to consider developing a stand-by capability on for responses in the future.

Again, this will be a 100% volunteer effort. We’re studying other models, including Doctors Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders, Rubicon, and other groups that utilize volunteer expertise in emergencies. We’re a long way from any of the infrastructure they have, but we’re considering what our options might be if this turns into something more formal.

Many of you have already committed to this effort and we are grateful. Thank you. We will be in touch. For those who haven’t yet, there is still time as we are rounding out the teams.

Below you’ll find a tentative deployment schedule. They are still subject to change. If you’d like to commit to any of these teams, please contact us at response@vectorstars.co or visit our website and fill out our Deployment Schedule Form.

On behalf of this Network and our friends in the Caribbean, thank you for your time and support.

Sincerely,

The Caribbean Emergency Vector Response Team

DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Team Alpha
Location: U.S. Virgin Islands
# of Volunteers: 6-10
Expected Dates: 1 Week Deployment: November 12-November 18
2 Week Deployment: November 8-November 21
Duties & Tasks: Deployment Team Alpha will be providing support to vector control units on islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas. Responsibilities include: surveillance and monitoring; source reduction; leading volunteers; training of local volunteers and educating local communities. Specific locations will include the islands’ hospitals, community centers, and few dozen schools.

Team Bravo
Location: Puerto Rico
# of Volunteers: 3-5
Expected Dates: 1 Week Deployment: November 12-November 18
Duties & Tasks: Deployment Team Bravo will be providing support to vector control units in Puerto Rico. Responsibilities include: surveillance and monitoring; source reduction; leading volunteers; training of local volunteers and educating local communities.

Team Charlie
Location: OPEN
# of Volunteers: Up to 10 for stand-by
Expected Dates: TBD
Duties & Tasks: Deployment Team Charlie is organized as a stand-by contingency group for efforts both outside and inside the U.S. This group may be deployed simultaneously with Alpha and Bravo groups if required, or remain on standby with no deployment. Individuals who volunteer for this will not be “required” to deploy to any location they don’t want to, but we’d ask that this team be our “special forces” group that can deploy anywhere for any task within a short period of time – on short-term deployments, mostly.

For those who have not deployed in post-disaster settings, please be aware of a few things:

  1. Accommodations are very sparse; be prepared for any scenario, including lodging in “unique” locations (cruise ships; hotels without power; cots; etc.);
  2. Our colleagues are busy; be prepared to “jump in” and help where you can, even if you are provided little guidance; be supportive and patient;
  3. Travel can be spotty; be patient and flexible;
  4. Be mostly self-contained; know that communities we seek to serve as still suffering from a lack of food, water, sanitation services, and in some cases, lack of basic shelter.

Questions? We’re sure you will have questions. Please call or email us at response@vectorstars.co. We’ll do our best to make the process as easy as possible.

THANK YOU.

The Caribbean Emergency Vector Response Team

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