Hurricane Dorian Emergency Support

by IsraAID
Hurricane Dorian Emergency Support
Hurricane Dorian Emergency Support
Hurricane Dorian Emergency Support
Hurricane Dorian Emergency Support
Hurricane Dorian Emergency Support
Hurricane Dorian Emergency Support
Hurricane Dorian Emergency Support
Hurricane Dorian Emergency Support

 

On Grand Bahama and Abaco islands, our WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) team is in the midst of a water management project, monitoring the quality of water across the islands, much of which was contaminated or salinated by Hurricane Dorian.

As Hurricane Dorian swept across the Bahamas in 2019, two of the northern islands - Grand Bahama and Abaco - were impacted most severely. The inhabitants of these islands receive their drinking water through groundwater extraction, but as the hurricane pushed ocean water into these sources, safe drinking water became unsafe. 

 The first phase of the WASH project involved drilling monitoring wells in various locations, 8 wells on each island. These wells are equipped with advanced sensors to determine the density of groundwater lenses, monitor water quality, and identify saltwater intrusion from storms and the rising of sea level. The well design considers storm surges, and clear protocols have been established regarding the wells' maintenance and protection in the event of more hurricanes. 

Working with the Grand Bahama Utility Company and the Abaco Water and Sewage Corporation, WASH Program Manager Gil Guberman and WASH Program Coordinator Dr. Ancilleno Davis provided utility staff with in-the-field training on sustainable groundwater management, installing sensors in the new monitoring wells across the islands, and monitoring the wells remotely. 

The wells will ultimately help manage the islands' water resources more sustainably, with Wi-Fi-ready sensors that provide monitoring data remotely, sending data daily from the field to the utility companies. Currently, trips of up to a few hours are required to monitor each well, but with the new technology, this will be drastically reduced. Not only will the data provide information about if the water is safe or not, but it will also inform the utility companies on how much water can sustainably be extracted. 

This project started as an IsraAID WASH program but will continue well into the future to protect the islands' freshwater resources and deliver fresh water to the people of Grand Bahama and Abaco.

Thank you for supporting IsraAID Bahamas in our recovery from Hurricane Dorian.

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Just six months after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, the COVID-19 pandemic began. Here, just like most other places in the world, lockdowns went into effect, schools closed down, and tourism basically disappeared. Because communities here on the ground were still recovering from the immense damage caused by the storm, many were left even more vulnerable to this new pandemic reality.

The island of Abaco was the most severely affected by Hurricane Dorian. Overall, the storm claimed the lives of hundreds and caused significant damage, with 75% of the homes in the Marsh Harbour area destroyed. Water sources were flooded with sea water, causing salination levels to skyrocket, rendering the water unsafe for drinking.

But recovery efforts were cut short. The hurricane hit in September 2019, and just as communities were beginning to get back to their daily lives, COVID-19 arrived. But this second disaster, layered on top of the most recent emergency, took a toll on our communities that we never could have anticipated. Whereas after the hurricane we were able to get together to support one another and rebuild as a community, this time, the simple act of gathering was extremely dangerous.

While many other communities around the globe switched to virtual events, this was not possible for many in Abaco, who were still without electricity due to infrastructural damage caused by the hurricane. This also meant no WiFi. Hundreds of students across the island were unable to access virtual education programming and see their teachers and friends. Many of these children had already been out of classes for much of the year because of damage to their school buildings.

As always, IsraAID Bahamas worked closely with local partners to assess and then address these rapidly changing needs. During the immediate lockdown, IsraAID joined forces with ADRA and Latter-Day Saint Charities to distribute tablets with solar chargers and data packages to children who could not access daily classes. We also launched training sessions for local teachers, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, on integrating psychosocial support and stress relief for children amid the pandemic. Through these webinars, the IsraAID team reached 1,900 beneficiaries.

On October 5, schools reopened. IsraAID’s “Healthy Return to School” program, implemented in partnership with MASHAV of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, aims to ease this transition by distributing hygiene products and personal protective equipment to local schools on Grand Bahama island — which, like Abaco, was significantly affected by Hurricane Dorian. Schools are provided with disinfectants, gloves, hand sanitizers and thermometers, to ensure that face-to-face teaching would be as safe as possible. A local service organization, the Anchor Division of the Pilot Club (Lucaya), made and donated 500 reusable face masks for one of the primary schools, ensuring that students can attend school comfortably and safely. This program is ongoing, and will continue for the coming months.

Returning to school represents so much more than mathematics and spelling and reading. It also allows children, parents, teachers, and communities to come back together, to learn and grow. This social fabric is essential to cultivating resilient communities, who know how to rely on one another, work together, and look forward toward the future. Whether this is in a virtual classroom on a tablet, or in a physical classroom behind a mask, or in our new Stronger Together Center, which will serve as an emergency shelter and resource center, the IsraAID team is committed to continuing supporting vulnerable communities as they recover from crisis, together.

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In the months since Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas, IsraAID has been active on the ground providing urgent support to affected communities. The storm primarily impacted the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, where IsraAID continues to operate. Critical infrastructure was severely damaged, and still today, much of Abaco remains without electricity and internet access. These challenges were and are further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted response efforts just six months after Dorian, as the 2020 hurricane season began. 

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Programming
Upon arriving in the Bahamas, IsraAID WASH staff began to meet and establish partnerships with local water actors. As the team began to test the water in numerous private wells in locations across the islands, we distributed Sawyer water filters, thereby restoring access to safe water from these specific wells. However, as the team tested other wells across the island, we discovered that many of them suffered high levels of salination due to the influx of seawater, rendering Sawyer water filters insufficient to ensure water safety. Responding to these needs, IsraAID established water distribution centers and implemented water trucking projects to ensure that remote communities had safe water access. 


Child Friendly Spaces – Safe Spaces for Children Post-Disaster
IsraAID’s teams established 10 Child Friendly Spaces (CFSs) across three islands as schools were shut down and routine was disrupted, to provide an immediate response to children’s needs. Due to the breakout of COVID-19, the  IsraAID team had to close all CFS operations in March. As the Bahamas’ Ministry of Education launched an online Virtual School to continue the school year, needs assessments on the ground showed that some 37,000 children were unable to access the platform due to a lack of devices, internet connectivity, electricity, and rising unemployment. In response to this need, IsraAID and its partners launched a distribution campaign to supply 850 households with child-safe data-enabled tablets, solar chargers, and data packages to provide the necessary platform for Abaco children and other displaced children to continue schooling. 

Next Steps
Over the last months, the IsraAID team has conducted a comprehensive assessment to better understand the needs in the Bahamas toward building back better after Hurricane Dorian, with the COVID-19 context and the current hurricane season in mind. This revealed a significant gap in key community services for children, youth, and the elderly—among the most vulnerable groups in society; plus, a lack of emergency shelters. As such, IsraAID in collaboration with our local partners, will establish “Stronger Together Centers,” to serve as a hub for psychosocial educational-community development services and opportunities, toward bolstering community resilience. 

Thank you for your continued support, especially in the middle of the hurricane season during a pandemic.

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The Bahamas was hit by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019, claiming the lives of at least 70 people and causing some $3.4 billion in damage. Seawater surges contaminated the wells, leaving these previously safe water sources with extremely high levels of salination. With buildings and homes severely damaged, schools were closed, leaving children and their families without a daily routine and no safe spaces to play. Locals experienced a sharp shortage in supplies ranging from food to cleaning products to hygiene items.

IsraAID launched an emergency response mission to support affected communities. On New Providence, IsraAID’s Protection Team worked in the capital city, Nassau, supporting the influx of evacuees relocated to shelters from their homes on Abaco and Grand Bahama. To provide a daily space for children to play, learn, and grow IsraAID’s Protection Specialists set up Child-Friendly Spaces on Abaco and Grand Bahama. We recruited and trained local volunteers to facilitate these spaces, focusing on key Psychosocial tools to support children in times of uncertainty and chaos. In order to address limited access to safe water and other basic supplies, the IsraAID team established water distribution points for locals and a warehouse to provide emergency items to the community.

COVID-19 EMERGENCY RESPONSE

Since the beginning of the spread of the deadly Coronavirus in January 2020, the disease has claimed the lives and infected hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The World Health Organization declared a  pandemic on March 11. There are currently at least 64 cases of COVID-19, with 8 deaths, in the Bahamas.

With mass quarantine, canceled travel, and a disrupted lifestyle across the globe, IsraAID’s teams are working to help respond to this most recent public health challenge. The need to isolate the infected and those potentially infected can break down the social ties and connections that are acutely needed in times of crisis, both for logistical preparation and response purposes, but also for our emotional wellbeing.

Vulnerable communities are at even higher risk. Without access to regular services, populations still working to
recover from earlier disasters are facing additional difficulties in obtaining the support they need. The current marked shift back to crisis mode can be extremely difficult, particularly for children. With communities still working to overcome the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian, people are at high risk for the rapid spread of disease. This could cause a secondary crisis, exacerbating humanitarian needs. Although our programs have been put on hold due to government restrictions, we are committed to getting back to work as soon as possible.

Supporting children’s psychosocial needs: Although IsraAID’s nine Child-Friendly Spaces have been temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the team continues to provide children with an outlet in these difficult times using remote/online initiatives. With many other routine activities canceled, and amid rising anxiety ahead of hurricane season’s arrival, it is essential that children can maintain their routines and attend facilitated expressive sessions to build their resilience. Programming also addresses hygiene promotion, quarantine preparation, and expanding children’s coping mechanisms in times of stress.

With school closure since March 15th and limited access to electricity or the internet, IsraAID is working to supply child-safe data-enabled tablets, solar chargers, and data packages to provide the necessary platform for Abaco children and other displaced children in the Bahamas to continue their education online. To complement the distribution IsraAID is providing pamphlets for the children’s parents about the usage of the tablets and the Virtual School, cyber safety, psychosocial support, hygiene promotion, and Covid-19 background information.

Thank you for your support during this global crisis!

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Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas in early September, severely damaging key infrastructure, and claiming the lives of at least 57 individuals with hundreds still missing. Windspeeds at more that 220 mph and storm surges reaching 23 feet caused widespread devastation, primarily affecting the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. Power lines were downed and roads were destroyed, further exacerbating emergency response efforts.

IsraAID’s Emergency Response team arrived on the ground on September 5, 2019 and launched a rapid needs assessment to identify areas of intervention. IsraAID, in collaboration with its partners in the Bahamas focused on three main sectors of work: relief item distribution, providing Protection services and psychosocial support, and implementing Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene programs to return access to safe water to affected communities.

IsraAID’s first water expert arrived in the Bahamas in early September, to asses and ascertain the major interventions needed on Grand Bahama. The team met and established partnerships with a variety of key local water actors, including the Bahama Water Authority, the Grand Bahama Port Authority, and other NGOs providing immediate support on the island.

Upon arriving at the heavily-affected High Rock district located in the eastern part of Grand Bahama, the team detected and tested fresh water in numerous private wells. The team distributed 4 Sawyer water filters and trained local community members on their use, thus making this fresh water safe for drinking.

Unfortunately, the situation on High Rock was an isolated scenario. Other wells across the island were tested and had suffered high levels of salination, rendering Sawyer water filters insufficient to ensure water safety. The WASH engineer visited and tested additional communities and locations across the island, including Sweetings Cay, an area accessible only by boat from the eastern point of Grand Bahama, which had been devastated by Hurricane Dorian.

On September 29th, the team launched a widescale partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to establish water distribution centers. The first was established in Pineridge Urban Renewal Center located in Freeport, followed by two additional centers at Pinder’s Point and Eight Mile Rock, allowing the IsraAID team and its partners to provide more than 30,000 gallons of safe water over 4 weeks.

IsraAID’s WASH specialists continued to test the water in existing wells, and to track salinity levels, as well as the speed of the aquafer healing rate using specialized kits and GPS technology. An Israeli government hydrologist joined the IsraAID WASH team in October.

IsraAID’s WASH experts succeeded in providing water measurements and samples for a total of 25 wells on Grand Bahama and 25 wells on Abaco. These tests and measurements are currently being processed by the Grand Bahama Water Authority, to create a plan moving forward and addressing long-term water safety programs for residents of these islands.

In the coming months, IsraAID’s WASH programs will transition from these immediate, emergency response solutions toward long-term, crisis-resilient water systems, including aquifer rehabilitation processes and water harvesting plans, as part of sustainable, Disaster Risk Reduction efforts.

Thank you for your support!

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IsraAID

Location: Tel Aviv, Merkaz - Israel
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Twitter: @IsraAID
Project Leader:
Molly Bernstein
Tel Aviv, Merkaz Israel
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