WHO Director-General Visits Devastated Sites in the Bahamas

The world must rally around the Bahamas in the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Dorian which has not only cost many lives and livelihoods but caused severe damage to essential infrastructure, depriving communities of vital services at a critical time, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, upon completion of a visit to the Bahamas.

Photo: WHO/A. Kuzmanovic

“It breaks my heart to see the devastation to communities and families who have lost friends and loved ones as well as their homes, possessions and access to crucial services,” said Dr Tedros. “Hurricane Dorian is another urgent reminder that we must address the drivers of climate change and invest more in resilient communities. The longer we wait, the more people will suffer. We need to keep the world and people safe.”

During his visit, Dr Tedros met with the Governor-General, Minister of Health and other government officials and commended their preparedness, readiness and efforts to mitigate the damage caused by the hurricane.

The visit included stops in Abaco and Grand Bahama islands where most households and infrastructure, including healthcare facilities, were completely destroyed. Dr Tedros was accompanied by Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands. Hurricane Dorian hit the country on 1 September 2019, affecting 75 000 people. About 1500 people are still being housed in shelters; about 600 are still missing; and 56 are confirmed dead.

The health sector in Abaco and Grand Bahama suffered a substantial blow, with equipment and medical supplies destroyed and electrical and water supplies interrupted. In Grand Bahama three health clinics have been destroyed and two in Abaco.

The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO-WHO) is the only United Nations agency with a physical presence in the Bahamas. PAHO-WHO has deployed 20 staff members and coordinated the mobilization of 5 International Emergency Medical Teams for the response. Dr Tedros thanked the teams for their rapid response and tireless service to the most vulnerable.

WHO has mobilized USD 1 million from the Contingency Fund for the hurricane response. Dr Tedros reiterated WHO’s commitment to support the government and people of the Bahamas for the recovery of the health system.

Globally, WHO will continue to work with Member States to make the health sector more resilient and to mitigate the effects of climate change, especially in Small Islands Developing States that are in greatest jeopardy despite contributing the least to the problem.  Last week at the Climate Action Summit in New York, WHO called on countries to commit to cut carbon emissions, clean our air, save lives, and significantly scale up investment in proven interventions for climate-resilient health systems.

Source: WHO