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Govt looking to address shelter capacity on Abaco and GB

In response to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) report, which indicated there is not sufficient shelter capacity on Grand Bahama and Abaco for the upcoming hurricane season, NEMA Director Captain Stephen Russell said the Disaster Reconstruction Authority will engage contractors to “rectify those deficiencies”.

“Likewise, I glanced at the report from the IOM with reference to the status of our shelters on those islands – Grand Bahama and Abaco,” Russell said during a NEMA press conference on national hurricane preparedness.

He continued, “…We identified a source of funding and our pledge is in the weeks ahead to grant funds to each of those 16, or some 20 churches now.

“The team from the DRA, we will engage contractors to help us rectify those deficiencies as were outlined in the IOM’s report.

“And, again, we’ll aim as quickly as we can to try and bring as many of those facilities up to standard as quickly as possible in order that we are prepared to house persons who may need to go to churches or schools for shelters moving forward.”

The IOM report, which was released at the beginning of May, stated that some of the official shelters are too small, lack generators and emergency freshwater, adequate sewage treatment facilities, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, flashlights, and sleeping equipment, and are therefore not recommended for long-term use.

It also raised concern over the lack of an official shelter in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Carl Smith suggested that the presence of undocumented migrants contributed to the report’s findings.

“[A] primary focus of IOM is to provide for migrants,” Smith said on Sunday.

“All of us know that in The Bahamas we have communities, legal and illegal, but communities, shantytowns, with numbers of undocumented migrants. So when one reads the IOM report, [one] must read it through those eyes.

“We never had sufficient sheltering capacity prior to Hurricane Dorian. Whatever sheltering we have, the government, through its various agencies, is doing all that it can in partnership with its partners locally and internationally to provide the best sheltering that we can. We have to be pragmatic and realistic and sensible.”

He added, “And recognize, too, that the disaster that we faced with Hurricane Dorian, the results that we got was in large measure due to illegal settlements being in the heart of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, and the surge came, and everybody knows the results.

“So, again, we are doing our best. We invite partnership. We invite people to be realistic and to come onboard and to assist. We are open.”

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