How To Help Hurricane Dorian Survivors In The Bahamas

By Bill Chappell

Debris left by Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour after it decimated the island of Abaco a week ago on Monday, September 9, 2019.

Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

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Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

The Bahamas’ government is sharing a wish list of materials to help the island chain give food and shelter to its residents who are still reeling from Hurricane Dorian. Officials say they need lots of help and supplies — but they also want targeted donations.

“Officials here for instance don’t want to be inundated with cans of green beans when what they really need is telephone poles,” NPR’s Jason Beaubien reports from Nassau.

They’re facing a relief and reconstruction job that’s likely go on for years.

“Cash is king. For us to rebuild these communities, we need funds,” Barry Rassin, president of Rotary International, tells Beaubien.

Saying money is the most flexible aid tool, Rassin is calling on people to give to established charities and hold them accountable.

“Make sure we report back what we got and how we spent it,” he says.

The Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency has published a page with instructions for anyone wanting to contribute to the Bahamas Disaster Relief Fund.

The Bahamian government has also issued an “exigency order” to allow relief supplies to quickly reach affected areas. It lists its greatest needs, ranging from tents and mosquito netting to plumbing fixtures and building materials.

Electric poles lay broken on the road to Marsh Harbour on the island of Abaco, Bahamas, a week after Hurricane Dorian decimated the town on Monday, September 9, 2019.

Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

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Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

In an update Wednesday, NEMA spokesperson Carl Smith said some 2,5000 people have been reported missing in the Bahamas. But he added that the list has not yet been cross-checked against the names of people who have been evacuated, or those who are in shelters.

More than 5,500 people have been evacuated to New Providence from Grand Bahama and Abaco, Smith said, citing the help of commercial air carriers and private pilots.

Abaco suffered extensive damage to its power supply system; Smith said the Marsh Harbour power station was completely destroyed, and there’s “a 20-mile stretch where all poles are down.”

Chef and philanthropist Jose Andres has been in the Bahamas for more than a week, and his World Central Kitchen delivered its 100,000th meal in the islands on Tuesday.

Reknowned chef Jose Andres, right, is interviewed by ABC News’ before Andres leaves for his first mission to Abaco Islands to deliver food to stranded Bahamanians who survived Hurricane Dorian at Odyssey Aviation in Nassau, Bahamas, on Tuesday, September 3, 2019.

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Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

“I arrived to Marsh Harbor Tuesday 3rd to bring some meals and water, increasing production daily!” Andres said. “We were safe, we felt safe…..when you feed people, and they see you comeback they become your angel guardians.”

Calling the relief effort “a massive operation with many moving parts,” NEMA added in its briefing on Tuesday, “People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake.”

The rush to bring aid has also caused some problems, as Bahamian officials are confronted with both a wide-ranging disaster and a crippled infrastructure that has sometimes limited its ability to welcome what has been a huge humanitarian response.

One of the government’s first meetings with relief groups drew nearly 150 representatives from local NGOs, according to NEMA. Acknowledging “the frustrations that arise at times” during the relief effort, the agency says it has asked the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to help it mange the flow of information among groups.

Here’s a rundown of other organizations that are undertaking this work.

Of course, NPR isn’t endorsing or vouching for any of these groups. And because scam artists often seek to profit from times of crisis, it’s a good idea to do a bit of research on any charity before you donate to it.

One place to start is Charity Navigator — which evaluates nonprofits and tracks where their money goes. The group has published a list of highly rated groups that are working to respond to Dorian.

Among those working with Andres in the Bahamas are Global Shadow Marine — which is using a large expedition ship to ferry supplies and aid to the Bahamas from Florida. On Wednesday morning, the group said it had just made an overnight trip from the U.S., arriving back in Freeport with 500,000 pounds of food and water.

Overnight transit, we are back in Freeport with 500,000 pounds of aid @WCKitchen @chefjoseandres #ChefsForBahamas

— Global Shadow Marine (@MYGlobalshadow) September 11, 2019

The ship had spent two days at the Pier 66 Marina in Fort Lauderdale, where members of the local fire department helped load pallets of supplies.

Another group bringing supplies is Sol Relief, a St. Petersburg Fla., non-profit that organizes relief flights to bring aid to disaster-stricken areas. As of late Tuesday, the group said it had just completed its 50th flight between the U.S. and Bahamas.

NPR staff who are reporting on the recovery effort in the Bahamas say they’ve seen the Bahamas Red Cross in numerous locations, along with U.N. agencies, the World Food Program and the Pan American Health Organization, or PAHO.

And the group World Health International says it’s been able to establish a clean water station at the Abaco Primary School. Its volunteers have also worked at Marsh Harbour and Green Turtle Cay.

On the far western tip of Grand Bahama Island, the Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour has declared itself a landing spot for aid, accepting more than 70 vessels this past Saturday alone. But the group, which operates a private marina, was forced to close briefly after a video was posted online showing relief supplies sitting on its dock.

The company says via Facebook, “people were storming the resort and beach and a lot was taken including drugs, baby formula, and two coolers full of insulin that were desperately needed.”

That closure lasted less than 24 hours, as Old Bahama Bay reopened after the government offered to boost the security and police presence at the resort.

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