NASSAU, The Bahamas, Monday September
9, 2019 –
“The clock is ticking” for Hurricane Dorian survivors in the
Bahamas to receive humanitarian assistance, the top United Nations Children’s
Fund (UNICEF) official in the region said yesterday.

“Children
and their families who survived the hurricane have lost their homes, their
livelihoods, their relatives, and have been left with little water or food,”
said Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Latin America
and the Caribbean.

Nearly
1.5 tons of lifesaving supplies that will help provide safe water for over
9,500 children and families left reeling by Hurricane Dorian have arrived in
Nassau, Bahamas.

UNICEF’s
first shipment of  water, sanitation and
health supplies, which was transported by the International Federation of Red
Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), includes water purification tabs for
approximately 9,500 people for two weeks.

The
category 5 storm that hit at the start of last week left behind a path of
destruction unprecedented in the archipelago.

“Almost
five days after the hurricane struck, safe drinking water is now the most
urgent and valuable lifesaving item, especially for mothers and children,”
underscored Abdel-Jelil.

Based
on initial figures from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, an
estimated 18,000 children in the Abaco and Grand Bahama area are in urgent need
of humanitarian assistance.

Fifteen-year-old
Benson Etienne was living with his family of eight in a two-story building when
Hurricane Dorian slammed Abaco Island for 40 hours. 

He
told UNICEF that the roof was the first thing to disappear, then the windows.
But they managed to escape into the strong winds and rain before the walls
collapsed.

“We had to swim for our lives in dirty water, fighting against strong currents,” he said.

Fifteen-year-old Benson Etienne and his family escaped before their house collapsed in hurricane-hit Marsh Harbour, Abaco Island, Bahamas. (Photo Credit: UNICEF/Manuel Moreno Gonzalez)

In
the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, a UNICEF team was rapidly deployed to the
Bahamas.

Yesterday,
a UNICEF assessment mission toured Abaco, the area hardest hit, where they
witnessed widespread devastation and destruction.

In
and around Marsh Harbour, schools and hospitals were flattened, houses and
roads collapsed, and cars and boats left hanging from trees. The team evaluated
the need for critical services, including for health, education and shelter
facilities.

“The
full scale of the destruction on the ground is still being assessed, but
initial assessments indicate that in some parts of Abaco, roads, ports and
other transport facilities have been partly or totally destroyed,” said Abdel-Jelil.

Aerial
reconnaissance and preliminary assessments indicate that flooding may have also
compromised water and sanitation systems in Abaco and parts of Grand Bahama,
putting children and families at risk of contracting waterborne diseases.

“Damaged
infrastructure makes the delivery of humanitarian aid extremely challenging,”
he added. “The most vulnerable families, especially children, are likely to be
the hardest to reach.”

In
collaboration with UN agencies and other humanitarian partners, UNICEF is
working with the Bahamian government to distribute lifesaving supplies to families
as quickly as possible.

The UN Children’s Fund is urgently appealing for US$4 million to scale up its humanitarian response and address the most immediate needs of children and families across the Bahamas, including access to safe drinking water and sanitation, nutrition, psychosocial support and non-formal education activities.

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