In Abaco, some feel forgotten; others note progress

More than four months after Hurricane Dorian, some Abaco residents continue to feel forgotten by the government, but others note that, notwithstanding the many challenges, there has been progress.

“[There] should be more work being done by the government,” said Enite Rivire, a 31-year-old living in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.

“They should be doing more. I mean, yes, it’s our property; we should put in so much but if we’re not seeing help from anybody besides the international community that doesn’t sit well.”

In early September, the deadly Category 5 storm tore through the northern Bahamas, impacting nearly 30,000 people.

It killed at least 70 people, some of whom lived in shantytowns – like The Mudd and Pigeon Peas – on Abaco.

In the immediate aftermath of Dorian, the government issued a ban preventing Abaco shantytowns from being rebuilt.

Those shantytowns have been largely cleared in recent months.

However, according to Rivire, that should not be the government’s primary focus.

“How do you expect me to be happy with the government if I don’t see the government helping besides clearly The Mudd and the Peas?” she asked.

“That’s the only thing they keep saying is The Mudd and the Peas. That’s not the whole of Abaco or the areas being affected. What about everybody else?”

Vandea Stuart, 41, a Cheeroke Sound resident, said there is a lack of secure residential structures in Marsh Harbour.

For this reason, she told The Nassau Guardian, many Abaconians are still unwilling to return home.

“A lot persons would like to return to Marsh Harbour, but there is no place for anybody to stay,” Stuart said.

“So, that’s the only, the main downside right now.”

But Stuart said the island has come “a very long way since September 1”.

“Watching everything, it’s definitely a process because like all of the main streets – I would say – throughout Marsh Harbour have all been cleared granted there’s still a lot of debris around,” she said.

“And I know it’s a process and that’s why I like to remain positive. From being here, I can see a difference as far as the clean up is going. I know it’s not going as fast as a lot of people would like it to but it is progressing.”

But Dale Hill, 56, a council member for Central Abaco said conditions are not improving fast enough.

“It’s definitely not,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for the NGOs, there’s no way we would’ve made it this far.”

Disaster Reconstruction Authority Chairman John-Michael Clarke said it is worrisome that some Abaconians feel abandoned by the government.

“As chairman of the authority, I don’t like to hear that people feel neglected,” Clarke told The Nassau Guardian.

“That worries me and shouldn’t only worry me; it should worry everybody.”

He added, “Of course, the shantytowns they got a lot of the attention because of the inhabitants and the social impacts of the shantytowns. But, the streets are cleared, Maxwell’s (grocery store) is opened, the bank is there.

“People talk about the government not doing anything, but you got to remember that every NGO that works in this country, they come here through the auspices of NEMA.

“They are given a program of works to do wherever they work, by the government of the country. They lend assistance with the full authority and full knowledge of the government.”

An assessment, which was completed by the Ministry of Works on Friday, notes that 242 buildings on Abaco were destroyed and 245 received major damage.

It is unclear how many of those buildings were homes.

Clarke said next week the Disaster Reconstruction Authority intends to launch a pilot housing repair program on Abaco.

The program has $10 million allocated to issue grants for repairs of homes impacted by Dorian.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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