The Bahamas: Hurricane Dorian - Operation Update n° 5 (MDRBS003)

Situation Report
Originally published
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Summary of revisions made to the emergency plan of action:

This operation update documents the following changes to the emergency plan of action:

  • A No-Cost Extension of the appeal operational timeframe from 30 June 2021 to 31 December 2021 to accommodate the construction of the new National Society branch building in Grand Bahama, and support to BRCS in preparing for the annual hurricane season;

  • Shelter: increased targets for both house repair and rental assistance programmes, and removal of several shelter training activities due to COVID-19 restrictions;

  • Livelihoods and basic needs: an increased target from 130 to 148 small and medium enterprises;

  • National Society Development activities, including an increase in budget allowance for the reconstruction of the BRCS branch building in Grand Bahama, training in First Aid and Branch Organizational Capacity Assessment (BOCA), additional volunteer recruitment projects and the procurement of 500 uniforms for volunteers.

The operational timeframe extension is largely to support the Bahamas Red Cross Society (BRCS) in overseeing the reconstruction of its branch building in Grand Bahama. Funding for this construction is supported with a Canadian Red Cross pledge made through the IFRC emergency appeal. A minimal number of essential IFRC staff will be retained to support BRCS in continuing the implementation, financial reporting and administration of NSD activities under the EPoA, such as training for First Aid and BOCA, enhancing volunteer recruitment and engagement, and preparedness activities for the annual hurricane season between June and November, apart from the branch building construction.

The increase in target beneficiaries under both the Shelter and Livelihood programmes was made possible from budget savings through reduced travel and limited training conducted due to government restrictions in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. These beneficiaries were identified during implementation of both programmes, and assistance was expanded to cover those who fulfilled the vulnerability criteria.

Under Shelter, the overall programme targets have been increased due to needs identified and availability of funding as follow:

  • Increase of the house repair target from 500 to 572 households (i.e., from 300 to 352 in Abaco, and from 200 to 220 in Grand Bahama). This also includes an overall corresponding increase in selected household toilet repairs (under WASH) in conjunction with the shelter repair programme. To date, this intervention in Abaco has been completed, and is nearing completion in Grand Bahama.

  • Increase of the rental assistance target from 235 to 238 households in Grand Bahama. This includes 20 highly vulnerable families who were provided an extra three months’ rental support. The rental assistance programme was completed in November 2020.

The proposed Participatory Approach for Safe Shelter Awareness (PASSA) training of trainers as well as the PASSA activities for youth have been removed due to challenges caused by COVID-19 movement and safety restrictions.

In Livelihoods, the overall target was also increased from 130 to 148 small and medium enterprises (SME) given the availability of funding and current needs of vulnerable beneficiaries. These include 78 SMEs in Grand Bahama and 70 in Abaco.

For National Society capacity building, IFRC is supporting the National Society to recruit additional volunteers and in procuring 500 uniforms for these volunteers to enhance volunteer recognition and visibility as planned.

The costs of the BRCS branch building construction in Grand Bahama increased from the estimated USD470,000 to USD775,000 following the engineers’ assessment of the previously existing structure. While plans were initially to rehabilitate and refurbish the old building, it was decided full demolition and subsequent reconstruction of a new structure would be more structurally secure, sustainable and cost-effective. The decision to proceed as such was made with full consultation and cooperation with the BRCS, and the additional cost of the new building will be covered by Canadian Red Cross through the IFRC emergency appeal.

Situation Analysis

Description of the disaster

Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas on 1 September 2019 as the strongest Atlantic Hurricane documented to directly impact a landmass. The islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama and the surrounding Cays sustained the worst impacts with homes, public buildings and other properties swept away or destroyed by massive storm surges. To date, the official overall death toll is 74 with 282 people still unaccounted for. The Government estimates USD3.4 billion in loss and damages caused by Dorian.

Among the government’s efforts to support people in Abaco and Grand Bahama to recover in the aftermath of the hurricane were:

  • Provision of home repair assistance, debris removal and reconnection to the main power grid;

  • Support for business recovery programmes, educational services, and other social services;

  • Support in rebuilding businesses and key infrastructure, including support for small businesses and individual livelihoods;

  • Designation of Abaco and Grand Bahama as Economic Recovery Zones with economic concessions such as tax-free food and construction items up to June 2021;

  • Disbursement of funds to assist hundreds of micro and small businesses affected by Dorian;

  • Support with rent payments to landlords, and vouchers for purchase of household items for those displaced by Dorian.

The after-effects of Hurricane Dorian have also figured largely in the 2020/2021 National Budget such the extension of tax relief for affected areas, balanced against the economic pressure on public coffers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, losses suffered by the tourism and hospitality sector, and increased support for public health spending, unemployment services, food assistance and other social welfare services.

COVID-19 situation in the Bahamas: The first case of COVID-19 was reported in the Bahamas on 18 March 2020, prompting the government to implement measures to mitigate and prevent spread of the disease such as night-time curfews, weekend lockdowns, restriction on international travel, limitations on domestic travel and reduced operation times for essential businesses and services. Physical distancing, mandatory face masks and hand sanitization protocols continue to be in place. The government also updates the general public regularly through press releases and features around the situation and recently, the rollout of the nation-wide vaccination programme. Government interventions in the context of COVID-19 include:

  • Insurance pay-outs to people affected by Dorian and COVID-19 by the National Insurance Board;

  • Unemployment assistance payments to affected residents in Grand Bahama;

  • Provision of meals and food items through the National Feeding Task Force interventions (in which BRCS provided support for three months)

In line with government efforts, BRCS has continued to respond with actions to curb spread of the disease; reduce psychological impact on people affected; enhance awareness of and encourage good hygiene practices; and provide food and cash grants to mitigate household economic stress. The National Society maintains close coordination with government authorities to support response efforts, and is in the process of updating its response plan to the current situation. The BRCS COVID-19 response plan activities are also supported under the IFRC’s global appeal and are regularly reported on the IFRC GO platform and through IFRC appeal updates.

The COVID-19 situation in the Bahamas has affected implementation of the initial programmes under this appeal, all of which have had to be adapted, postponed, revised or removed in observation of movement limitations and safety protocols.