Financial instability in Puerto Rico affects unborn babies
Over the last few months, the island territory of Puerto Rico has been scrambling to find a way to make a $2 billion debt payment by July 1. While $2 billion may not seem like an impossible feat for some nations, that amount has to be achieved in less than two weeks and is only a fraction of their larger $72 billion dollar debt. This economic instability is affecting the entire territory, as the poverty rate has skyrocketed to 45 percent and 1,200 citizens are being forced to flee to the United States each week. To make circumstances even worse, the Zika virus has been infecting about 2 percent of Puerto Rican adults each month and mosquito season hasn’t even reached its peak yet.
In an attempt to help prevent Zika-related birth defects, such as microcephaly, major healthcare companies have donated thousand of contraceptives to Puerto Rico. However, these donations are struggling to make their way to Puerto Rican women because a licensed distributor has yet to be lined up by the CDC Foundation and local doctors lack appropriate training in IUD implantation. The CDC Foundation has already trained a couple dozen doctors and have raised $1.7 million to help distribute the contraceptives in Puerto Rico, but according to Dr. Judith Monroe (the President and CEO of the CDC Foundation) the CDC Foundation still needs to raise an additional $20 million to train and pay the remaining medical professionals needed.
In the meantime, Dr. Carmen D. Zorrilla, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, is encouraging patients to wait at least a year to get pregnant. While her message may decrease the number of pregnancies in Puerto Rico, a predicted 138,000 women on the island are at risk of unintended pregnancy each year. While the topic of contraceptives raises a huge ethical argument in today’s society, something clearly needs to be done to help the islands of Puerto Rico.
Some form of protection or aid clearly needs to be provided to combat the spread of Zika in Puerto Rico, whether it be through direct Zika assistance or assisting the Puerto Rican economy to allow them to fund their own form of healthcare.