The Washington, D.C.-based Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is requesting an initial $3.5 million in donations to cover short-term health care and other needs for the population in the Bahamas affected by Hurricane Dorian.
“Our priority concerns are to restore access to essential health services and continued medical care delivery, to ensure water quality in affected communities and health facilities, and to restore proper hygiene and sanitation,” said Dr. Ciro Ugarte, PAHO’s Director of Health Emergencies on Saturday.
The devastating Category 5 storm made landfall northwest Bahamas, and Ugarte noted that the hurricane severely affected the health sector, destroying equipment and medical supplies, and electrical and water infrastructure in Abaco and Grand Bahama.
PAHO said some 73,000 persons were affected by the storm, and that there are hundreds of people in shelters in the disaster zone.
While 43 deaths have been officially reported thus far, PAHO said mass casualty numbers are expected to rise significantly as search and rescue operations continue.
Ugarte said adequate waste management and control of disease-causing factors, such as mosquitoes, are key, along with increasing epidemiological surveillance to support early detection and timely management of disease outbreaks.
He said the $3.5 million being requested by PAHO is a preliminary estimate to cover short-term healthcare, water and sanitation, epidemiological surveillance and vector-control needs in the Bahamian islands most affected by Hurricane Dorian for the next six months.
Dr. Ugarte said the list of needs will likely increase as damage assessments are completed.
PAHO said it activated its emergency teams for surge capacity and had pre-deployed Rapid Response Team experts to the Bahamas, before Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the area, to support health authorities and humanitarian response as needs were identified.
So far, 14 PAHO experts are in the disaster zone to provide surge capacity in logistics, civil and military coordination, information management, epidemiological surveillance, communications and coordination.
Dr. Ugarte said PAHO is acting quickly to support the Bahamas Ministry of Health in the recovery effort, setting up an Incident Management system and co-leading the health cluster with the national health authorities to coordinate health and humanitarian support to the affected population.
He said the funding requests includes $1.3 million to restore health care in affected areas, $500,000 for surveillance to detect and manage disease outbreaks, $800,000 for safe access to water, emergency sanitation and control of disease vectors, and $671,000 to coordinate humanitarian assistance and manage information to address the most urgent humanitarian needs.