Dorian: Devastating Disasters Necessitate Purposeful Planning & Responsible Responses
World Hope International has responded with its coalition of partners to the catastrophic damage to the Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian and is on the ground now helping communities onto their feet.
The unique logistical nightmare of this hurricane highlights the importance of planning ahead, prepositioning, and laying careful systems in place. It is not enough to just react in times of crisis.
Hurricane Dorian has been an especially catastrophic hurricane for several reasons. One of those reasons is that as a Category 5 storm, Dorian hovered for days over the northern islands of the Bahamas, exponentially increasing damage day by day. Another reason has to do with the geographic and social layout of the island nation itself.
Towns and communities have grown across the islands, many of which lie in remote areas, spread out across cays and only barely connected to one another. The utter devastation caused by Dorian has resulted in their being almost entirely cut off from each other – and out of reach from aid.
Airports, airstrips, and roads are covered with rubble and debris and the harbors are filled with sunken boats as well as debris blown into the sea from the wind or pulled in by the storm surges. The result is a logistical nightmare for responders to navigate – and close coordination between government agencies, the private sector, NGO’s, and the UN has been vital to success so far.
What We’re Doing Right Now
Along with our partners and through our relief team, WHI is providing services including desalinating ocean water in order to provide clean drinking water; clearing debris from harbors, airports, airstrips, and roads; conducting assessments of remote islands and providing vital feedback to relief efforts; delivering supplies daily to the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), supporting logistics for other relief activities; and coordinating with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Our water team is currently running a water station in Green Turtle Cay as well as out of a primary school in Marsh Harbour in the Abacos.
Vulnerable even in the best of times, coastal communities and oceans are especially at risk when a disaster strikes. Animals, ecosystems, the ocean itself are all impacted right along with people themselves – and each of these areas must be attended to with care in order for the now vulnerable community to build back and not collapse along with the damaged infrastructure.
Executing On Our Caribbean Disaster Relief Plan
World Hope International (WHI) got on the ground in the Bahamas immediately not only because we wanted to respond to the disaster but because we had prepared in advance to respond by establishing a strong coalition of disaster relief partners already locally based and through strategically prepositioning emergency supplies.
Between our coalition of partners, we have 11 planes that are cleared to fly in the heavily-regulated Bahamian airspace through Sol Relief, a fleet of yachts and boats through YachtAid Global, medical personnel through Ports International, and much more – as well as teams of trained relief volunteers.
While there are many emergency supplies that may be specific to a disaster, our years of experience responding to disasters have consistently shown that clean water is almost always contaminated or disrupted, so we sent five of our Katadyn 360 Aquifers down to St. Petersburg, Florida, early this summer in anticipation of Hurricane season.
That is one of the reasons WHI specifically uses Katadyn’s reverse osmosis water treatment systems to purify saltwater into drinking water. These solar-powered water makers use readily available and abundant resources (the sea for water and the sun for power) and mean we can avoid bringing in loads of single-use plastic water bottles.
Not only do such shipments clog up ports that could otherwise remain open for more urgent relief that cannot be locally sourced and to evacuate people, but they also ultimately create a second crisis for post-disaster communities and their already damaged environment because of the resulting plastic pollution.
Strategically planning in advance and prepositioning emergency relief supplies like the Aquifers is what enables us to not only respond rapidly, but responsibly.
Moving Forward From Here
We will maintain our active role on the ground working with our coalition of partners, The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), UN OCHA, and NEMA, as well as other global and local agencies and NGOs to help the Bahamas get back onto their feet and build back better from this devastating hurricane.
As of Monday, September 9, we are deploying a second wave of volunteers to relieve our current team on the ground. A third wave of volunteers will rotate in the following week, at which time we will reassess the needs on the ground, available funding, and our capacity as a coalition to continue to provide the best possible support.
World Hope International is committed to responding to crisis globally, helping communities to build back better and ensuring that our relief efforts don’t add to the environmental and economic damage, but actually mitigate the impacts of the disasters to which we respond.
Learn more about other emergencies we have responded to and make a donation to support our response to Dorian and other disasters.
Special thanks to Dave Miller and our partners at Sol Relief and YachtAid Global for the photographs.