Factors such as political persuasiveness, appeals to sentiment and the tendency to tire of subject matters with the passage of time can have the potential to impact how and if stories are told, but it is a potential the press must guard against if it is to be the guardian of Hurricane Dorian survivors in the months and years ahead.
Today marks one month since Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Abaco.
With over 600 people said to still be missing, little to nothing has been told to the nation on the process of search and recovery of those feared as dead.
In the absence of this information, it has been suggested that most who are missing and presumed dead were washed out to sea, but without information regarding search efforts through the tons of debris left in Dorian’s wake on Abaco and Grand Bahama, that assumption should not be taken as fact.
Multiplier effect considered, thousands in The Bahamas are today unaware of the whereabouts or fate of over 600 family members, friends and loved ones, a matter that warrants detailed probing by the press on behalf of grief-stricken, yet hopeful storm survivors.
Estimates indicate that approximately 70,000 on Abaco and Grand Bahama were displaced following Dorian. If that figure is even close to accurate, we know that most left homeless are not in shelters, which raises ongoing concerns about the state of homelessness in the storm’s aftermath.
For most who lost their homes, where are they now? How are they surviving? The kindness of family, friends and strangers can begin to wear thin over time and assuming it has for some, what options for safe shelter are they able to access, particularly for those left jobless and without income?
In and after a disaster, vulnerable segments of a population such as the elderly, the indigent, the disabled and children are more likely to be subjected to conditions that, at best, are less than ideal, and at worst, unsafe.
How are we as a nation working to safeguard the interests of storm survivors who are least able to care of and protect themselves?
Hurricanes cause wind, rain and flood damage and they also can have a negative impact on air quality, generating potentially dangerous exposures to mold and carcinogens such as formaldehyde, which is an agent often present in construction materials.
In developing a strategy for healthcare moving forward on Abaco and Grand Bahama, have officials factored in the need for regular air quality testing which can aid in providing appropriate advice to residents on how best to purify their homes and businesses and how to otherwise minimize their risks of illness due to airborne contaminants?
With hundreds of businesses destroyed, focus on the economic impact of Dorian is beginning to take shape, but what also requires focus on the part of both the public and private sectors is how the productivity of storm survivors might be impacted as a result of their trauma.
How prepared are heads of government departments and managers in the private sector to work with storm survivors struggling to get their life back together and their emotional wellbeing in a state of relative balance?
It may be hard for employees to focus throughout the day, excel at tasks or cope with ordinary stressors of the job. Part of their recovery will rest with employers who have been sufficiently sensitized to how traumatic stress affects individuals and how such stress might factor into an employee’s ability to perform to a particular standard.
In a disaster the magnitude of Dorian, the risk of survivors falling through the cracks and being forgotten, ignored or put through insurmountable hurdles is great, most especially when international relief agencies upon which many have been depending, begin to decrease in number and scope of work.
It is therefore critical that the press be vigilant, curious and unyielding during the long road to recovery, and that it be probative on issues such as these and more — regardless of how uncomfortable it may make the powers that be.