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Bahamians Need Food, Water, Shelter And Medical Supplies After Dorian

Sep 10, 2019
Originally published on September 10, 2019 9:23 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We are continuing to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in parts of the Bahamas. The storm was the strongest on record to strike that country, killing at least 44 people. The United Nations is saying 70,000 people are homeless. This is Freeport resident Valentino Burt (ph) describing life to The Associated Press.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VALENTINO BURT: We don't have no power, no water. It's hard to live over here. It's hard, hard, hard to live. We sleep outside. Even outside isn't even cool. No trees to give breeze - nothing - nothing at all.

GREENE: He's on Grand Bahama Island, which saw massive devastation after the storm lingered above that island for nearly two days. Christy Delafield directs communications for the aid group Mercy Corps. She is with a team on the island of Grand Bahama and joins us now from the main city there, Freeport. Thank you for taking the time for us this morning.

CHRISTY DELAFIELD: Good morning, David.

GREENE: Can you just describe what life is like in the city of Freeport right now, and what it looks like?

DELAFIELD: Well, the clip that you played I think is really accurate. As we drive around, everything has been destroyed by floodwaters or flattened. People have furniture and clothes sitting outside of their homes, trying to dry them out. There are long lines at gas stations as people are buying fuel for generators, as well as their cars - long lines at laundromats. Basic daily life is not easy here.

GREENE: Well, as the man we heard there - the resident Valentino Burt - said, you know, no power, no water, hard to live, sleeping outside - I mean, how does your organization even prioritize? Like, what is the most desperate need that you're trying to help with?

DELAFIELD: Well, certainly the basics - clean water, shelter. We're trying to keep people - trying to keep people alive, really. But once you move beyond that, the front-of-mind challenge for aid agencies right now is logistics because to get any of those supplies in, we need warehousing, we need supply chains. And frankly, the destruction has been so immense that that's not really self-evident. Anywhere that we could put a warehouse has been destroyed by floodwaters and may not be safe for storing supplies. Communications are down. Electricity is down. Any of the - any of the things that you would normally do in a response are going to be 10 times harder because the systems that would support them don't exist anymore.

GREENE: Oh, so you're still at the point where you're just trying to even set up, and that could take some time. Like, how are you doing that? I mean, how do you actually store stuff with no reliable warehouses?

DELAFIELD: So we connect with each other as aid agencies to understand who has access to what, compare notes and bring in things to fill different gaps. So, for example, you may not think about it as being a huge priority, but with people not having a place to charge their phones, Mercy Corps's bringing in solar lanterns that have phone chargers so that people can get word about where distributions are taking place, they can have light so that they're a little bit more safe, they can contact their loved ones, they can contact emergency services. I mean, this is in addition to sort of traditional things like toothpaste and toothbrushes and soap and towels and all of those kind of things that you think of as the typical disaster relief supplies.

GREENE: One thing that really stayed with me as I was reading about the situation there is residents saying that they're seeing foreign aid arriving - you know, aid from other countries - but not seeing help from their government. What - are you even working with a government that's able to do much right now? I mean, this is a very small government, a very small country, that has to be overwhelmed.

DELAFIELD: Well, it's honestly easy for any government to be overwhelmed in an emergency. The National Emergency Management Association - NEMA - has put out a list of supplies that are most needed. And so what we do is submit the list of things that we're bringing in, and we try to focus on what they have suggested. So whether it's mosquito nets or tarps, we're going to be working with the local people to try to figure out what they need because the person who's closest to the problem is closest to the solution.

GREENE: How long do you think your organization is going to be there?

DELAFIELD: This is looking like a long haul, David. I mean, we're talking years here.

GREENE: Wow. Christy Delafield with Mercy Corps in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island - her organization is delivering aid there after the hurricane - thanks a lot.

DELAFIELD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.