While people of The Bahamas continue to recover from category 5 Hurricane Dorian, another disaster threatens the well-being of the Bahamian community: the coronavirus pandemic. As of mid-April, The Bahamas had more than 60 reported cases of the virus across the islands. From the earliest diagnoses, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis declared a state of emergency and set strict rules in place regarding social distancing, grocery shopping hours, a curfew and more.
The capital of The Bahamas is Nassau, New Providence island. Though it is not the smallest island, it is by far the most populous with as many as 275,000 people. On an island that runs just 21 by 7 miles, many feared how quickly an infectious disease could begin to spread.
The Red Cross Adapts
The American Red Cross and the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network joined The Bahamas Red Cross following the September 2019 hurricane to deliver aid and had already distributed over $14 million in cash to help families affected by the storm. The Red Cross had transitioned to long-term assistance when the global coronavirus pandemic broke out.
In the wake of the pandemic, the Bahamas Red Cross worked to make adjustments to continue serving the community. Their meal home delivery program provides free, hot meals delivered to the homes of elderly and disabled people 6 days a week. Workers are now outfitted with gowns, masks and gloves while practicing safe, contactless deliveries. As the pandemic puts more people into vulnerable situations and increases food insecurity for many, The Bahamas Red Cross is expanding to deliver to even more people in need. Volunteer caseworkers shifted appointments to video chats and phone calls. Additional handwashing stations were installed around Red Cross buildings, and increased cleaning measures are being taken to disinfect and sanitize every surface.
Red Cross workers across the islands continue to adjust and adapt to ensure the progress made on the islands in the seven months since Hurricane Dorian is not lost. Mental health support is always available with volunteer caseworkers manning a 24-hour-hotline to help residents dealing with the stress of the pandemic, often compounded by continued stress from the aftermath of the hurricane.
The Power of Partners
By partnering with other organizations on the ground, the Red Cross can meet more needs created by Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic. The home meal delivery program operates through a partnership with World Central Kitchen, and the American Red Cross is helping to expand it to reach more people who are now facing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
On Grand Bahama island, where the water is still not safe to drink, Red Cross-funded partner, Mercy Corps, is continuing to provide clean, safe drinking water through distribution sites that are being cleaned regularly so residents can rely on the safety of their water when so many other things are uncertain.
The Red Cross and Mercy Corps are still providing grants to local businesses in Grand Bahama to help reinvigorate them after their being disrupted by Hurricane Dorian. With more local businesses plunged further into uncertainty by the outbreak, more business grants are being given along with business training and mentorship.
In Sweetings Cay, another small island broken and battered by Dorian, the Red Cross is funding CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) to provide small grants to business owners. One local business owner, Leonard Feaster, received his grant of $5,000 in March, finally giving him the beginnings of what it will take to get his business, The New Traveler’s Post, open again.
“I feel grateful,” he said as he held the money. He said one of the first things he’ll do is renew his business license.
The Red Cross continues to respond to the long-lasting effects of what Hurricane Dorian left behind while adapting to a new normal caused by the virus.
The American Red Cross in The Bahamas
The American Red Cross has been helping in The Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian hit last September, providing emergency shelter items, food, clean water and millions of dollars in cash and rental assistance to families. It is because of the generosity of the American people that the Red Cross is able to provide continued support to families. In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Red Cross continues to keep safety the main priority and is adapting our programs and efforts to follow all health guidelines while still delivering our mission.