Agency seeks $3.5 million for humanitarian response in Bahamas

Hurricane devastation in the Bahamas [Photo: New York Times]
Hurricane devastation in the Bahamas [Photo: New York Times]

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has issued a donor appeal of $3.5 million for humanitarian health response to cater for those affected by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.

The health agency in a statement issued via the WHO website on Monday said the request is for an initial $3.5 million to cover short-term health care and other needs of the affected population.

PAHO said the amount is a preliminary estimate to cover short term healthcare, water and sanitation, epidemiological surveillance and vector control needs in the Bahamian Islands, which is most hit.

The Bahamas was last week hit by a devastating category five storm called “Hurricane Dorian”.

BBC reported that Dorian ripped through the northern Bahamas with wind gusts of 300km/h and huge storm surges.

Although the hurricane has diminished into a post-tropical cyclone, smashing into the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, toppling trees and cutting power to more than 450,000 people, the devastating effects are severely felt in the north-west Bahamas where thousands of homes were destroyed and some 73,000 persons were affected by the storm.

Since then, hundreds of people have been living in shelters in the disaster zone.

Also severely affected was the health sector with significant destruction of equipment and medical supplies and electrical and water supplies in Abaco and Grand Bahama.

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While 43 deaths have been officially reported thus far, mass casualty numbers are expected to rise significantly as more areas become accessible and search and rescue operations continue.

In order to tackle humanitarian crisis which might result as an after effect of the disaster, PAHO/WHO said it has activated its emergency teams for surge capacity and had pre-deployed Rapid Response Team experts to the Bahamas before Hurricane Dorian struck.

The team is to support health authorities and humanitarian response as needs were identified. So far, 14 PAHO experts are in the disaster zone to provide surge capacity in logistics, civil and military coordination, information management, epidemiological surveillance, communications, and coordination.

PAHO’s Director of Health Emergencies, Ciro Ugarte, said, “Our priority concerns are to restore access to essential health services and continued medical care delivery, to ensure water quality in affected communities and health facilities, and to restore proper hygiene and sanitation.”

He said adequate waste management and control of disease-causing vectors such as mosquitoes is key, along with increasing epidemiological surveillance to support early detection and timely management of disease outbreaks.

Mr Ugarte said the $3.5 million being requested by PAHO is a preliminary estimate to cover short-term healthcare, water and sanitation, epidemiological surveillance and vector-control needs in the Bahamian Islands most affected by Hurricane Dorian for the next six months.

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Although there are fears that diarrhoea and waterborne diseases could spread as drinking water might be contaminated, PAHO has said there has been no case of cholera reported.

“PAHO is acting quickly to support the Bahamas Ministry of Health in the response, setting up an Incident Management system and co-leading the health cluster with the national health authorities to coordinate health and humanitarian support to the affected population.”

The funding requests includes $1.3 million to restore healthcare delivery in affected areas, $500,000 for surveillance to detect and manage disease outbreaks, $800,000 for safe access to water, emergency sanitation and control of disease vectors, and well as $671,000 to coordinate humanitarian assistance and manage information to address the most urgent humanitarian needs.

Mr Ugarte added that needs will likely increase as damage assessments are completed.

Other humanitarian works are also ongoing at the Bahamas Islands.

The UN’s World Food Programme is sending food and supplies, while USAID said it will allocate $2.8m (£2.3m) in help, as well as emergency supplies for 44,000 people.

The American Red Cross also said it has committed $2.8 million to the course and the UK Royal Navy and private organisations are helping evacuate residents to Nassau.

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