Most Abaco shantytown homes have modern amenities

The vast majority of households in Abaco shantytowns  have basic utilities, inclusive of electricity, indoor running water and flushing toilets, according the preliminary Abaco Shantytown Assessment Report, 2018.

The report noted that 67.6 percent of households have running water, 80.2 percent have flushing toilets, and 78.6 percent have electricity.

However, the report reveals that only 6.6 percent of households have cable services.

“Similar to shantytowns structures in New Providence, generators are the primary source – 74 percent of electrical supply for structures in Abaco,” the report said.

“Only 11.6 percent of these structures report receiving their electrical supply from BPL/BEC.”

The report further noted that the legality of the BPL/BEC connection was not explored.

Twelve percent of shantytown structures use drop cords as their primary source of electricity and two percent were unknown.

The results of the summer study, released on Tuesday, shows that 3,041 people reside in six shantytowns on Abaco, inclusive of Sand Banks, Farm Road, L & H (Treasure Cay), The Mudd, Pigeon Peas and Elbow Cay.

The study surveyed 777 households and indicated that The Mudd is the most densely populated shantytown with 51.4 percent of the population, followed by Pigeon Peas with 19 percent and then Farm Road with 15.2 percent.

Back in March, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who chairs the Shantytown Action Task Force, said that an illegal power generation system at the center of The Mudd shantytown was cause for major concern for the committee.

That discovery came after two massive fires erupted at The Mudd just weeks apart, leaving hundreds displaced.

On March 4, 32 structures were destroyed in the blaze that erupted in the community around 1 a.m., displacing 95 people – 33 men, 25 women and 37 children.

The blaze in January destroyed an estimated 60 homes, leaving around 150 people homeless. It was later determined that arson was the cause of the fire.

The report notes that at the time, 915 dwelling structures/buildings were identified within the six shantytowns.

There are 681 structures in South Abaco and 234 in North Abaco.

The number of structures is almost double those identified in New Providence but is a 10.6  percent reduction from the 2013 shantytown report.

A 2013 report by researchers in the Department of Environmental Health Services, found a “marked indifference to the extremely unhealthy conditions by those that occupy the shanties”.

The report noted that at the time, there were three shantytowns on Abaco including Sandbanks, The Mudd and Pigeon Peas.

Combined, those three communities had more than 1,000 homes, according to the report.

Researchers said there were 124 homes or residences in Sandbanks. Only two were identified as having wells piped into the houses. There were also six visible commercial shops.

In Pigeon Peas, there were 300 residences and 30 commercial shops, at the time. Of those homes, 150 had septic tanks and 15 made use of outside toilets.

In The Mudd, which is still the largest of the three predominantly Haitian communities, there were 600 residences, 100 septic tanks and six outside toilets. There were also 45 commercial shops, the report said at the time.

The latest report also revealed that 76.8 percent of Abaco shantytown residents reported that they own their dwellings.

“Interestingly, an overwhelming majority (76.8 percent, 597) of household respondents reported occupancy via ownership of the dwelling which contrasts with occupancy via rental arrangements (19.9 percent, 155),” the study said.

“The remaining households (2.8 percent, 22) either responded other or gave no response.”

However, the report noted that the understanding of ownership to the respondent was not deeply explored, thus the assessment did not determine whether the respondent believed he/she owned the land and/or the structure being occupied.

The government has set a deadline of July 31, 2019 for residents of the Abaco shantytowns to evacuate.

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Sloan Smith

Sloan covers national news for The Nassau Guardian. Sloan officially joined the news team in September 2016 but interned at The Nassau Guardian while studying journalism at the University of The Bahamas. Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications

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