Tuesday 12 November, 2019

UN official: Urgent need for critical life saving supplies in Bahamas

"There is an urgent need for critical life-saving supplies," said the top UN humanitarian official in The Bahamas, following the passage of Hurricane Dorian, as the government raised the death toll to 44, with many still missing. 

According to latest reports, the death toll was raised to 44, following the passage of Hurricane Dorian, a category five hurricane, that swept Bahamian islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Many remain missing and the number of casualties is expected to increase.

 

UN agencies and humanitarian organizations are supporting the government-led response, led by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and in close coordination with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

As access to affected areas is progressively resuming, albeit limited, needs assessments are being undertaken by UN agencies and humanitarian organizations on 7 September, landing on several locations across Abaco Islands, the most affected.

Humanitarians found widespread destruction, with thousands of houses leveled, telecommunications towers down, and water wells and roads damaged. There is very limited or no water, electricity and sanitation. In Marsh Harbour, most of the infrastructure is damaged; “the Mudd” area, mostly inhabited by migrants, many undocumented, has been destroyed, therefore leaving this community in a particularly vulnerable situation.

Charles Cornish, himself from the Spring City close to Marsh Harbour, said it was “heartbreaking” experience and that even the hurricane Floyd which devastated The Bahamas in 1999 cannot compare to the damage and trauma Dorian brought on.

“At one point in my house, it felt like Bigfoot is on the roof, trying to break in through the roof,” Cornish said. “And then we ended up losing one of our windows, so - I had a cabinet which was nearby…we stand that against the window along with a freezer. We took on water all night through the window. And then a part of the ceiling… you know, it leaked from a part of the ceiling,” he explained.

While many of the 3,300 people estimated to sheltered in Abaco Islands (2,500) and Grand Bahama (800) in Government buildings (as of 5 September) have reportedly been evacuated or left the shelters, those remaining in shelters or in affected areas need water, food, sanitation, medicines, among others.

Mariko Kagoshima, UN Resident Coordinator for The Bahamas said “we know that there were approximately 17, 000 people living in Abaco before the hurricane. And we are responding to the immediate needs, but at the same time, we are trying to understand who are the most in need of humanitarian assistance. And Especially those populations of undocumented migrants are our main concern.”

Across Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, airports and seaports are increasingly becoming operational, allowing assistance to be delivered. However, access to affected people, in particular in Abaco Islands remains challenging, including due to damaged roads and infrastructure.

“The physical destruction is massive," said Rein Paulsen, Head of the Regional Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for the Latin America and the Caribbean. "There is an urgent need for critical life-saving supplies: food, water, sanitary and hygiene packs. The UN has deployed the emergency medical teams in government infrastructure to meet trauma needs and respond urgently to people,” he said. 

The OCHA's official also said, “the government has established a number of areas of work - food, logistics, health, water and sanitation and the UN has embedded lead experts in those areas and we are delivering assistance in coordination with the government through those channels.”

Relief assistance to respond to the most urgent needs is arriving in Nassau and is being dispatched to affected areas, including 14,700 individual meals-ready-to-eat from WFP which arrived on 6 September and were immediately delivered to the islands.  

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