SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton announced dozens of projects Tuesday aimed at helping Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands recover from a deadly 2017 hurricane season as part of a two-day conference in the U.S. territory organized by his foundation.
The announcement comes as the region struggles to rebuild more than a year after hurricanes Irma and Maria caused billions of dollars in damage in Puerto Rico, Dominica, Antigua, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other spots.
“Our work is far from over,” Clinton said. “The work is not for those with short attention spans.”
More than 550 people representing over 400 organizations attended the conference of the Clinton Global Initiative, which Clinton created to help raise attention and money for causes worldwide.
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Those at the conference included nonprofits that pledged to help provide clean water in the event of another disaster, build a hurricane resistant, solar-powered library and launch an in-home therapy pilot program, among other projects.
Many in the private sector promised to deliver several solar projects, including one that would make the Puerto del Rey marina in the island’s northeast completely solar powered and another that would provide solar panels and a battery bank to the emergency management office in the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, which is still running on generators more than a year after Maria.
Another project includes improving technology to help governments across the Caribbean better prepare for natural disasters and their aftermath.
The pledges follow dozens of others made last year in previous conferences that include rebuilding schools, distributing solar lanterns and providing medical care and equipment. Overall, Clinton said more than 50 commitments have been made so far this year.
Clinton arrived in Puerto Rico on Sunday along with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, the foundation’s vice president. On Monday, the Clintons met with Gov. Ricardo Rossello and toured parts of the island still struggling in the hurricane’s aftermath. They also met with farmers, fishermen and small business owners in the southeastern part of the island, which is struggling to emerge from a 12-yearlong recession as its government tries to restructure a portion of its more than $70 billion public debt load.
“One of the things that a storm of this magnitude does … is lay bare and make more acute already existing challenges,” Bill Clinton said.