PAHO supports Hurricane Dorian response in the Bahamas with emergency medical teams

PAHO supports Hurricane Dorian response in the Bahamas with emergency medical teams
Fernando Llano/AP

The Washington, D.C.-based Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says it is focusing on providing clinical care to save the lives of persons who survived Hurricane Dorian and keeping people safe, with three Emergency Medical Teams arriving in the Bahamas.

“Clearly it is a desperate situation for some persons on Abaco,” said Dr. Esther de Gourville, PAHO’s representative in the Bahamas.

She said PAHO is working with the Bahamas Ministry of Health and emergency teams to help those who survived secure food supplies, safe drinking water and sanitation.

Even before Hurricane Dorian struck, Dr. de Gourville said PAHO “pre-deployed” water and sanitation experts and health services experts to Bahamas and had experts in logistics, disease surveillance, coordination, information (data) management and civil-military cooperation in place in its Bahamas office.

She said assessment of needs has begun, and that a structures expert is looking at damaged health facilities.

PAHO said it has pledged health sector infrastructure and public health support, and is acting quickly with the support of the Bahamas Ministry of Health to assess needs and damage assessments.

PAHO has also established an Incident Management System in its country office.

“Due to floodwaters and potential contamination with sewage and lack of safe water, the risk of diarrheal and waterborne diseases is high,” warned PAHO, stating that Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama is flooded and supplies damaged, and other clinics on Grand Bahama and New Providence are also flooded.

PAHO said it has used its extensive experience in emergency preparedness to improve disaster relief operations, setting up the structures to deploy emergency teams to support public health measures.

With several health centers flooded and unable to receive patients, a full hospital-capable Emergency Medical Team from Samaritans Purse has arrived in the Bahamas for a three-month stay, PAHO said.

The team includes six physicians and two surgeons, 16 nurses, two anesthesiologists, allied health personnel, and logistics and management staff.

Another Emergency Medical Team from Team Rubicon has been deployed to Abaco for a 15-day mission, PAHO said.

Abaco aerial surveillance shows vast devastation to the island’s infrastructure.

More than 1,200 people are reported in various shelters in Great Abaco and Grand Bahama and an additional 800 are sheltering at Marsh Harbor Clinic, PAHO said.

Meanwhile, the United States government said it is working in partnership with the Government of the Bahamas, including the National Emergency Management Authority, to deliver emergency supplies to address the immediate needs in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.

“The U.S. Mission to the Bahamas, working through multiple agencies of the U.S. government, is providing humanitarian assistance, search and rescue operations, and other disaster response measures, as well as assisting U.S. citizens in the affected areas,” said the U.S. Department of State in a statement.

At the request of the Bahamian government, the State Department said the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team “to coordinate the U.S. response and provide technical support to the National Emergency Management Authority, which is managing the overall relief effort.”

The State Department said this is “part of a broader international response effort that includes Caribbean partners, the United Kingdom and Canada, so that the government of the Bahamas can provide lifesaving and life sustaining care to their people.”

As of Sunday, reports indicate that at least 43 people were killed as a result of the Category 5 storm.

Officials, however, indicate that the number could increase significantly, as hundreds are still missing.