In September 2019, Category 5 Hurricane Dorian slammed into the shores of The Bahamas as the most powerful and most destructive disaster on record to hit the islands. It crawled slowly over the land decimating parts of the country and causing extreme flooding and damage on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama and their surrounding cays with widespread power outages, scattered debris and homes that had been completely levelled. Thousands of people were affected and after the storm passed, many were left wondering “where do we go from here?”
In the time since the storm hit, the American Red Cross has been there, providing relief support in the immediate days after the storm and maintaining a presence long after the storm has passed to shape the long-term picture of what the future will be for those whose lives were changed.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of the public, the Red Cross has been able to directly support the people whose lives were most deeply disrupted by Dorian. Donations to the Red Cross allowed us to put cash right back into the hands of local people so they could choose for themselves exactly what they needed. We gave out emergency supplies, food and clean water to thousands of families, supported small businesses trying to stay afloat amid Dorian and the global pandemic and helped to be the bridge to comfort and hope following a life-changing disaster. Read more about how the Red Cross is helping people get back into their homes, provided water for an entire island, helped to replace everyday household items, and supporting small businesses. Together, these initiatives are contributing to the positive recovery of the islands and improved quality of life for local families.
“The American Red Cross has been there with food, shelter, everything. My family really appreciates it because we left Abaco with nothing,”
Hurricane survivor Sheikadena Sawyer
Distributed $11.3 million in cash
Served over 560,000 hot meals
Supported purification & distribution of over 1.5 million gallons of water
Covered $840,000 in rental assistance payments for 200 families
Supported 302 small businesses with $2.1 million in grant money
Provided over $3.5 million to 500 families for home repair
Extended over $675,000 in additional support to 257 small businesses affected by COVID-19
Supplied 350 sanitation and hygiene kits to vulnerable children and adults in the Bahamas
Secured PPE and specialized COVID-19 adapted hurricane and shelter training
We’ve come together with the Bahamian community to reliably deliver aid where it is needed most while working alongside the Bahamas Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent and partners on the ground.
In September, Red Cross volunteers and nurses met evacuees as they stepped off planes coming from the devastated islands and helped get them to hospitals. Those volunteers brought stability and direction to those overwhelmed by the chaos and turmoil of emergency evacuations.
We supported shelters on the islands and organized the distribution of relief items to thousands of families while mental health volunteers fanned out across the communities to reach those searching for emotional support.
Beyond giving out items, the Red Cross worked to distribute over $11 million in cash assistance to local people, providing them the freedom to buy what they need when they need it for their families. For many, the money was the first step in their recovery journey and provided reassurance that they would overcome the challenges presented by Dorian and bring some normalcy back to their lives.
Abaco resident Sheikadena Sawyer didn’t even have shoes on as she got off the plane after evacuating. “This is it,” she remembers thinking as the roof started to bend and peel off the school she was in being used as a shelter during the storm, holding hands with her kids. A nurse by training, Sheikadena did not stop bandaging, stitching, applying pressure to anyone who walked into that space on Abaco the day the storm struck. Upon receiving financial assistance from the Red Cross days later, she realized she was being reunited with a volunteer who first helped her off the plane while shoeless. “You came from all over to do this? Angels. You are Red Cross angels,” she says through tears welling in her eyes. “This is for my kids, they went back to school yesterday and now I can afford to get them their uniforms, workbooks and new clothes. All I can say is thank you.”
“I am so thankful for the Red Cross. They’ve really been good to me and they helped me fix my roof and I want to say to you guys thank you so much,”
Gwendolyn Dawkins, resident of Murphytown, Abaco, Bahamas
The mission of the Red Cross continues to be elevated and extended through carefully executed partnerships with other humanitarian organizations responding to the long-term effects of the storm in the Bahamas. Partnerships with Mercy Corps, World Central Kitchen and CORE have allowed the Red Cross to stand alongside these groups to provide further aid including hundreds of thousands of gallons of clean, safe drinking water to residents, small business cash grants to business owners, daily fresh meals to families, financial assistance in paying rent on temporary housing, and direct assistance with repairs of hurricane-damaged homes.
Over 3,000 families received cash cards from the Red Cross, and hundreds more are receiving money directly for repairing their homes and paying rent. The Red Cross is helping families with damaged homes in Abaco and Grand Bahama as homeowners are working to make their homes more resilient against future storms and making updates to improve accessibility. Many homeowners say they feel like getting back home would mean another step toward what their lives were like before Hurricane Dorian.
In early March, 2020—more than 6 months after the Hurricane Dorian response began—a global pandemic was declared due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The work of the American Red Cross continues in the Bahamas alongside the Bahamas Red Cross.
Programs supporting hurricane recovery including home repair and small business economic recovery are adapting to health and safety guidelines as many people affected by the hurricane continue to be put in vulnerable situations with the spread of the virus.
The Red Cross continues to deliver its lifesaving mission during this public health emergency and mental health support workers are always available to people dealing with hurricane stress now compounded by a pandemic.
Small businesses already weakened by Hurricane Dorian faced even more challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic while being vulnerable to future storms. The Red Cross is working with partners to provide cash grants to small and medium sized local businesses working to overcome these new challenges. Not only are business owners provided with cash for replacing equipment, office repairs, and more but they are provided access to business mentorship and training - further helping to build resiliency.
Robert Grant lost his Grand Bahama roadside conch shack in Hurricane Dorian, and with it his only source of income and multi-generational family business when the physical structure was torn apart. With help from the Red Cross, he was able to buy materials to rebuild and get his business open once again. Robert says as a small business owner, he was feeling “forgotten,” until the Red Cross became the first organization to provide help. Robert and hundreds more business owners are working toward getting back in business even better than before the storm.
As recovery work for Hurricane Dorian works through a global pandemic, the Red Cross is striving to prepare for the active 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season by building up the Bahamas Red Cross and volunteers and staff with additional communications capabilities, transportation equipment and an expanded workforce across the islands. Red Cross workers are prepared to support sheltering needs and activate a virtual Emergency Operations Center to remain in constant contact with leadership and local officials. The Red Cross continues to support and comfort this community as the new future of life after Dorian unfolds.
As part of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network’s relief efforts, the American Red Cross has allocated:
“He sat in front of me with his eight month old, telling me he was just trying to be a man as he held their mattress over their heads as the roof blew off. I listened and gave him his cash card. I said, ‘You can stay here as long as you need to, just sit if you’d like,’ and in that moment I could see his body just relax.”
Jessica Alcira, a Bahamas Red Cross volunteer
The American Red Cross supported people affected by Hurricane Dorian across multiple states. As flood waters receded and power was restored across the east coast, most people returned home. Support still continues for those who have been evacuated to the U.S. from the Bahamas.
More than 3,100 Red Cross disaster responders from across the country supported relief efforts. In preparation for this powerful storm, 110 emergency response vehicles and 109 tractor-trailer loads full of relief supplies, including cots, blankets, and 189,700 ready-to-eat meals, were mobilized near evacuation centers and at-risk communities.
Served over 189,700 meals and snacks with our partners
Provided over 38,000 overnight stays in shelters with partners
Sent approximately 350 blood products to ensure patients in Florida have access to lifesaving blood.
Provided 12,200 mental health and health contacts to provide support and care to evacuees
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