It’s been less than a month since Hurricane Dorian wiped out much of Grand Bahama and Abaco Islands. The Category 5 hurricane was the strongest to make landfall on the islands. As of this week, the official death toll from Hurricane Dorian is 60 people, though hundreds are still missing.
In the wake of the devastating storm, several South Florida companies and non-profit organizations sprang into action. AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is one of them.
“Our relief effort has been concentrated mainly in Grand Bahama, Abaco, and Nassau,” said AHF Southern Bureau Chief Michael Kahane. “We're working very closely with the Ministry of Health of The Bahamas, and with the Bahamian federal government offices that are supervising relief. They've been in touch with us about things that they need, despite the initial response.”
AHF is also working closely with USAID. “They've all told us specifically what is needed as opposed to what the receiving,” Kahane said. “So they're receiving a lot of, non-perishable food items and they're receiving a lot of water. They're telling us it's not an issue anymore, but what they said they're not receiving are things to help, shelter and repair for folks on Grand Bahama, as well as some for Abaco.”
Instead of food, people need things like tarps, saws, nails, duct tape — items that help provide residents with shelter from the sun and protect whatever they have that left until they can have more sustainable repairs.
“One of the things we've heard a lot from people on the islands when we've been doing the deliveries is that there are no lumber stores, so they can't even actually do full-fledged repairs because there's no additional source of lumber,” Kahane said. “The other things that they're not getting enough are baby food and diapers.”
So far, AHF has flown two cargo planes to the Bahamas, carrying 15 tons of supplies. AHF’s 350 employees in South Florida purchased everything that went over.
“Our staff is also amazing,” Kahane said. “For instance, we told everyone what was needed. Our mobile testing unit drove to BJ’s and filled the entire thing up with supplies. Everyone responded massively.”
AHF is also working with HIV agencies, both in Grand Bahama and Nassau. “Right now, there is no shortage of HIV meds,” Kahane said. “But there may be a shortage in the future because there may be a supply chain issue. But the Ministry of Health worked very hard to get the additional medications to Freeport.”
Kahane was able to see the damage and devastating need first hand.
“Being at the airport, particularly in Grand Bahama and seeing women and children on the other side of the fence, literally begging us to put them on the plane and take them back because the children were injured and needed medical attention,” he said. “Unfortunately, because there's no temporary protective status for a Bahamians in the U. S. we weren't able to do so, but it was absolutely heartbreaking to see people that close, in dire need of medical care and we simply weren't able to switch that. That's the part of it that, you know, punch me in the gut the hardest.”