WITH much of the focus on Abaco in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, people in the East End of Grand Bahama are concerned.
They feel that there has not been enough focus – or help – for them as they try to recover from the monster storm that came to a halt over the island and churned away, creating destruction wherever it touched.
As they try to pick up the pieces, some are left waiting, and waiting, for government help.
The debris remains untouched, residents are left without transport to access supplies – and for some there has been little sign of assistance from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Pine forest debris litters the East End, while the roads are lined with what used to be people’s possessions – furniture and appliances rotting away in the sun.
Just as in Abaco, the personal stories are harrowing. One resident talks of six feet of water in her home yet somehow she was able to be “at peace the whole time”. Another family only survived by wearing life vests with the water level nearly at the ceiling in their home. The family put their niece, who is unable to walk or talk, on a mattress to keep her safe. A neighbour’s house was completely submerged.
There has been support - from the Lions, the Rotary Clubs, and the World’s Kitchen, but residents have been left expecting more from government.
As one said when a meeting was called in Freeport, how are people supposed to get there when their vehicles have been destroyed by the storm. If people can’t get to government, government has to go to the people.
This week, we also heard of conditions in Abaco with people saying there has been little support, and that there was no law there, with residents taking defence into their own hands.
It is now more than a month since the hurricane. The roads have been cleared enough to let relief teams access wherever they need to, and there has been a herculean effort to raise funds and provide donations for those who need it.
Which begs the question - why are so many on the affected islands left wondering where the government is?
Are there not enough resources available for the government? Is it not committing enough manpower into the affected areas? Between NEMA, public servants, police and the defence force, does the government not have enough people available to reach those who need assistance?
Or is it an organisational problem? Are the resources there, but not being managed in a way that lets people in the hurricane zones see and feel the presence of government, and access the assistance that they need?
With similar stories coming out of both Abaco and Grand Bahama, this isn’t something that can be shrugged off as an isolated occurrence. People in both areas are feeling, as they say, neglected.
This isn’t a political matter - these people are as frustrated by the absence of the opposition members of Parliament as they are the members of government. It’s simply that they feel cut off, forgotten, that they have been left on their own to figure out how to rebuild their lives.
We must improve. The government must reach these people and make them feel that there is no Bahamian, no resident left behind.
The moment the storm hit these islands was our darkest hour. We must make sure that things are made better - not worse - in our response. For all of those affected.