As Abaconians struggle to rebuild, a new foe surfaces

Karina Pinder is one of the many Abaconians now challenged to adjust to a new Bahamas brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, all while still struggling to recover from Hurricane Dorian.

Pinder, a 37-year-old Hope Town resident, told The Nassau Guardian the adjustment has “been tough, especially with young kids”.

“Our lives have been a struggle since September 1st and now this just makes it even harder,” she said.

Seven months after Dorian, Pinder’s home is still “an empty shell of just wall frames”.

This means her family spent the government’s nationwide 24-hour lockdown, intended to contain the spread of COVID-19, inside a tent in their yard.

“We have two kids, a now-15-month-old and a 7-year-old, and we’re living in a tent in our yard for a few months,” Pinder said.

There is some degree of running water inside the tent, as the family was able to salvage their water tank when the monster storm destroyed their home.

But, with no electricity, they only “run our generator about an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon and an hour in the evening, give or take depending on the day”.

Over in Cherokee Sound, Vandea Stuart considers herself “blessed” to have permission to stay at a home in the Abaco Club on Winding Bay.

“Presently, I am staying in one of the homes that I manage for Exclusive Resorts at the Abaco Club,” Stuart, 41, told The Guardian.

“Exclusive Resorts and the Abaco Club have been more than generous to their employees following Hurricane Dorian.”

But, Stuart also noted, “While I am blessed and I get to sleep comfortably at night, this is not the case for a lot of other fellow Abaconians who are still at a disadvantage since the storm.

“We still have persons living in their homes with roof damage and some people [are] still living outside of their homes in temporary tents.”

A similar point was raised by Jaii Wallace, one of several Abaconians who took to social media over the weekend to express their thoughts about the lockdown measures.

“People living in tents in Abaco; no power, no water, also no food,” Wallace said.

“Is the curfew really necessary for 24 hours? How we supposed to make it?”

Pinder added that Hope Town residents face a special challenge with being able to access grocery stores to even stock up for a lockdown.

“Hope Towners usually go to Marsh Harbour for groceries, so, without ferries, that’s a bit challenging,” she said.

She added, “No ferries and only small convenience shops on some islands. We are all scrambling trying to get what we need before all these lockdowns.”

Helping themselves

Pinder said she does not believe Abaco’s health care facilities are prepared in the event there is a confirmed case on the island.

She noted that even keeping up with the personal hygiene measures suggested by the Ministry of Health to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as frequent hand washing, is a challenge.

“We also have to conserve water here on the islands,” Pinder said.

“So, that’s another thought of ours: save water and gas. So, not everyone showers every day for sure.

“Hygiene practices are, for sure, not as they were before Dorian, and now due to the virus, this is a concern.”

She added, “We cannot handle this virus hitting Abaco.

“On Hope Town, we, luckily, still have our government nurse, but the clinic is, temporarily, in a second homeowner’s house.

“We all lack basics. I had to ask around to find children’s Tylenol last week because the stores didn’t have any.

“The Marsh Harbour clinic also cannot handle what we have already.

“Dr. Hull is amazing in his mobile clinic and Dr. Charity, but there is only so much they can do for the entire Abaco.

“Our volunteer fire rescue has been working on a plan for a quarantine area and designating teams for frontline rescue as we always do. Like after Dorian, we know it’s up to us to get things done on Hope Town.”

According to Stuart, some people in Marsh Harbour have, likewise, created their own solutions for COVID-19 preparedness.

“Throughout this pandemic, people, like with Dorian, [have] been pulling their resources together to help persons that are still in need,” Stuart said.

“There are some local persons, like my good friend Melinda Pinder, who spearheads a distribution center in Marsh Harbour.

“They’ve been getting food to the elderly and to persons shut-in.”

Stuart added, “Local businesses throughout Marsh Harbour have been adhering to the orders from the prime minister.”

‘God knows when normalcy will be for us’

In a social media post, Abaconian Derek Dawkins suggested that even after the COVID-19 threat has passed, Abaconians still don’t know when their lives will return to normal.

“In the days, weeks or even months to come, y’all will go back to your normal life after the curfew is lifted,” he said.

“[B]ut for the survivors, only God knows when normalcy will be for us because not only our homes were broken; our minds and hearts were broken too.”

Pinder, too, acknowledged that “the virus threat has definitely slowed progress down and Abaco was just catching some momentum on recovery, so, it’s been very discouraging”.

“I have my moments of frustration and whatnot, but overall [I’m] trying to remain positive and look forward,” she said.

“[T]he virus threat and economic uncertainty has definitely made that much harder to do, recently, but Abaconians are a strong, resilient group of people, so, that comforts me for our future.”

She added, “We hope and pray [COVID-19] doesn’t make its way to Hope Town, but we are doing our best to quarantine and keep our island safe, so we can get back to recovery efforts as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

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