As Hurricane Dorian survivors begin returning to their communities in Abaco, Americares in collaboration with the Bahamas Ministry of Health (MOH) will provide health services through mobile care to an area with more than 17,000 residents impacted by the hurricane to ensure the availability of critical primary care and mental health services. By providing mobile care, Americares will increase access to health services for survivors. It will also reduce transportation barriers and ensure that survivors do not have to choose between advancing their recovery and prioritizing their health.
Americares will provide primary care services, including health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, mental health and other counseling services, patient education, diagnosis, and treatment of acute and chronic illness, and distribution of medication at the patient level. These services will be provided to Hurricane Dorian survivors in Abaco six days per week through June 2020. Americares aims to provide at least 3,500 patient consultations through this commitment. Specifically, they anticipate 2,975 adults and 525 children under the age of 18. Americares expects that a portion of patients will likely return for follow-up care.
To carry out this commitment, Americares will augment MOH staff through Americares mobile medical teams comprised of physicians, nurses, social workers or psychologists, and pharmacy tech/data officers. These teams will rotate between eight locations in The Abacos on a fixed, but flexible, schedule. Specifically, at the request of the MOH, Americares will continue to provide health services in Marsh Harbour, Elbow Cay, and Man-O-War Cay as well as expand operations to include Fox Town, Coopers Town, Sandy Point, Guana Cay, and Green Turtle Cay to support the ongoing health needs of families living in Abaco. 10 international health professionals will be recruited for Americares medical teams to avoid drawing resources away from the local health care system.
Moving forward, Americares maintains the flexibility to reinforce the Bahamas health system through providing facility-based support as well as mobile health services.
Weeks 1-20 (February 2020 – June 2020): Americares’ teams will provide services six days per week. Americares aims to conduct 175 patient consultations per week.
Throughout the duration of the commitment, local procurement of supplies will be ongoing.
Between September 1 and 2, 2019, Hurricane Dorian struck Abaco (population 17,224; 8,902 males, 8,322 females), Grand Bahama (population 51,368; 24,996 males, 26,372 females), and surrounding cays in the northwestern section of The Bahamas. The official death toll remains at 70 deaths, however hundreds more were reported missing. Satellite imagery showed damage to an estimated 13,000 houses and government buildings, and the UN reported key infrastructure damage, including bridges, factories, roads, shops, and communication networks. The hurricane has significantly disrupted the health system in these most impacted locations, and the health system on New Providence Island is straining to meet the needs of evacuees there.
In general, the destruction of Hurricane Dorian has caused significant population displacement in Abaco, Grand Bahama, and adjoining cays. Many residents focused on recovery have lost their livelihoods and are struggling to meet their basic needs; in the case of Abaco, many residents are only just beginning to return. Vulnerable Bahamians are unable to prioritize their health amongst the recovery. The situation is particularly dire for the Bahamas' Haitian residents, who comprise the largest minority group in this nation of 400,000 people. According to the US State Department in 2018, there were between 40,000 and 60,000 people of Haitian descent living across the islands of the Bahamas. By some estimates, Haitians make up as much as one-fifth of the Bahamian population. Many remain undocumented and are increasingly vulnerable in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
Today, while life in Nassau has largely returned to normal, the situation on Abaco, Grand Bahama Island, and the many surrounding Cays is far from that. Individuals are slowly returning to rebuild their communities, but public health capacity is still stretched thin and ill-equipped to meet community health needs. As the Bahamas transitions into the recovery phase, government actors and partners are striving to meet the continued needs of the impacted population.