Emergencies

Hurricane Dorian Relief

The Bahamas

  • Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas with Category 5 winds, causing loss of life, mass displacement, and extensive damage in many areas.
  • Direct Relief quickly mobilized shipments of medical aid for emergency medical teams providing care in isolated areas, as well as hospitals and clinics working to treat evacuees.
  • In addition to delivering requested medical aid in the storm's aftermath, Direct Relief is committed to strengthening the country's health system as recovery continues.

In Focus

Responding to Dorian-Impacted Communities

Destruction on Great Abaco, one of the first islands in the Bahamas to be hit by Hurricane Dorian with Category 5 winds. Direct Relief has medicines en route to Abaco to equip responding medical teams. (Photo courtesy of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)
Destruction on Great Abaco, one of the first islands in the Bahamas to be hit by Hurricane Dorian with Category 5 winds. (Photo courtesy of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)

Immediate Response

On August 31, 2019, Hurricane Dorian made landfall over the Bahamian islands of Grand Bahama and the Abacos. Dorian was not only the most powerful hurricane on record to strike the Bahamas, with wind gusts up to 220 mph, but it also stalled over the Caribbean nation and battered it with hurricane-force winds for a record-breaking 40 hours. Dorian brought an estimated 40 inches of rainfall and created a 23-foot storm surge in the most affected areas that left a trail of destruction. The combination of sustained hurricane-force winds with torrential rainfall and extreme storm surge resulted in devastation to many communities, particularly in eastern Grand Bahama and the northern Abacos. Over 75,000 Bahamians were directly affected and many lost their homes and were forced to evacuate

Hurricane Dorian’s battering of the Bahamas led to a complex disaster response situation, including extensive emergency medical needs across multiple islands. Given the scale of damage to infrastructure, normal logistics pipelines were closed into impacted areas, so Direct Relief worked with a range of partners to hand-deliver emergency medicines to where they were needed via large and small watercraft, small aircraft, and helicopters.  Direct Relief was able to get emergency medicines and supplies to all of the functioning health facilities and then maintain resupply requests.

In the weeks following Hurricane Dorian, emergency medicines arrived in the Bahamas bound for health facilities in the country. Medical aid has continued since the storm made landfall, including medical shipments to equip ambulances that were brought to the islands to serve patients. (Direct Relief photo)
In the weeks following Hurricane Dorian, emergency medicines arrived in the Bahamas bound for health facilities in the country. Medical aid has continued since the storm made landfall, including medical shipments to equip ambulances that were brought to the islands to serve patients. (Direct Relief photo)

As the response continued, Direct Relief deployed emergency resources via formal agreements with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the Pan American Health Organization, and dozens of NGO and government entities, including in the Bahamas.

Direct Relief has provided more than 80 tons of medical aid to the Bahama’s Ministry of Health since Hurricane Dorian made landfall. This medical aid was distributed to local clinics, shelters and hospitals, including the main hospitals in Marsh Harbor and Freeport. This support includes cold chain shipments, containing vaccines, insulin and other temperature-sensitive medications. Direct Relief also expanded cold storage capacity by donating FDA-compliant refrigerators and freezers so vaccines and other cold chain items could be properly stored.

Direct Relief has worked closely with the MOH and the Supply Management Division (SMA) to assess needs from across the country, receive requests, and distribute donated medical goods.

Delon Brennen, deputy chief medical officer with the Bahamas' Ministry of Health (left) and Direct Relief's Gordon Willcock on Abaco Island last week, as part of an effort with officials and medical staff from the University of Miami and the Bahamas' Ministry of Health to discuss partnerships for long-term recovery of the country's health system, post-Dorian. (Peter E. Howard/University of Miami)
Delon Brennen, deputy chief medical officer with the Bahamas’ Ministry of Health (left) and Direct Relief’s Gordon Willcock on Abaco Island, as part of an effort with officials and medical staff from the University of Miami and the Bahamas’ Ministry of Health to discuss partnerships for long-term recovery of the country’s health system, post-Dorian. (Peter E. Howard/University of Miami)

Six months after the hurricane hit, serious challenges for communities and authorities remain in many areas. In the hardest-hit areas, debris removal remains a huge task, utilities and services are still offline, and much of the infrastructure and a large percentage of homes are either under repair or yet to be repaired or rebuilt. However, even in the face of such difficult times, optimism persists. Local people remain resilient, and schools, hospitals, and other vital infrastructure is being prioritized with rebuilding underway.

Responding to Needs

Since Hurricane Dorian made landfall, Direct Relief has:

  • Supplied Emergency Health Kits, Emergency Backpacks, and a range of other supplies in support of medical teams. During the emergency phase of the disaster, Direct Relief supported and enabled multiple Emergency Medical Teams with four Emergency Health Kits, 15 medical backpacks, and a range of other supplies. These teams include NYC Medics, Green Cay Clinic, GSD, and a team of medics from Puerto Rico.
  • Delivered more than 122 tons of requested medicines and supplies. Direct Relief worked in coordination with the SMA and MOH to distribute the products to local clinics, shelters, and hospitals.
  • Delivered adult and pediatric tetanus vaccines, TDAP, insulin, and injectable antibiotics to combat a syphilis outbreak. Direct Relief dispatched four cold-chain donations valued at $1,128,714.
  • Fully equipped four ambulances donated by Global Medical Response (GMR). These ambulances are now in the Bahamas and are filling the gap in emergency health services created due to hurricane damage to MOH ambulances.
  • Delivered 76 hospital beds and 10 birthing beds for Princess Margaret Hospital in order to manage the huge influx of evacuees into Nassau.
  • Delivered FDA-approved vaccine fridge/freezers to health facilities. Upon request and in order to enable the MOH to conduct vitally important vaccine campaigns and effectively store cold-chain medications, Direct Relief donated vaccine fridges and freezers. The units are being used at the Rand Hospital in Grand Bahama, Marsh Harbour Clinic on Abaco, and at the National Immunization Center in Nassau.
  • Supported the operation of a mobile medical bus on the Abacos. The mobile facility is providing primary care and basic lab services to affected communities in remote areas on Grand Abaco.
It will be a very long road to recovery for the people and communities that were devastated by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Direct Relief has been working very hard to address the immediate health issues as well as to help build a better and more resilient healthcare system for the future.
Medical aid arrives at Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport, Grand Bahama, in the weeks after Dorian made landfall. (Andrew MacCalla/Direct Relief)

Recovery and Rehabilitation

Moving into the recovery phase of the disaster, immediate medical supply needs have given way to an urgent need to get health infrastructure back online. The percentage of damaged health infrastructure remains very high and Direct Relief is coordinating with the MOH to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of hospitals and health clinics across Grand Bahama and the Abacos. At the same time, while working on the restoration of access to health facilities for impacted populations, Direct Relief is working towards the strengthening of human resources via advanced training for key nursing and maternal and child health workers.

At the request of the Bahamian MOH, Direct Relief has committed to support a number of large health infrastructure projects including:

  • Procurement of medical equipment to replace damaged equipment at Rand Hospital in Freeport
  • Provision of a prefabricated operating room to be attached to Rand Hospital while the facility is being reconstructed
  • Design and the full construction drawings for a new model hurricane-resilient community health clinic

A long road to recovery stretches ahead for the people and communities devastated by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, and Direct Relief is committed to strengthening the health system.