ONE in four people in The Bahamas may now be facing hunger.
That’s the stark reality of the impact of the coronavirus on the country. Bahamas Feeding Network executive director Philip Smith fears as many as 100,000 people are now worrying about where their next meal will be coming from – and given the network’s experience in helping people in need, that’s an opinion to be taken seriously.
After all, with people already in poverty now being added to by the huge number of newly unemployed as businesses have shut down their operations, it is no surprise. When the money dries up, how can you pay for food? And rent. And power. And water.
Over in Grand Bahama, when Dudley Seide arrived at a community centre to prepare food and care packages, people had already been waiting outside since 7am. A total of 1,500 people were fed at the centre.
Seeing our nation at its lowest ebb has brought out the best in helpers, doing all they can to make sure people manage through this.
Of course, what will help out most is when the nation can reopen and go back to business. People can go back to jobs, earn their own money, pay their own way. There are of course calls to reopen sooner rather than later – and one only has to look across at the US and some of the protests of the lockdown there to see how widespread dissent is. The nightmare however would be starting again too soon.
Let’s be clear – no matter what we do, a large sector of our economy depends on money coming in from visitors, and those trips aren’t starting again in a hurry, and we won’t be high on the list of places to visit if we haven’t already defeated the virus here. The choice is not between fighting the virus and restarting the economy – it’s ensuring that we don’t have both a healthcare battle and an economic battle all at once. The nightmare would be opening again only for the virus to force us to shut down all over again.
For now, we must help those in the greatest need. Those who are struggling to pay for food. Those who need a helping hand from their Bahamian brothers and sisters.
In one day yesterday, the Bahamas Feeding Network distributed $75,000 worth of items – with parcels containing enough food to feed a family of four for about a week.
That was funded thanks to an anonymous donor who gave $100,000 – whoever that donor was, we thank you.
To others, who might be lucky enough not to worry where their next meal is coming from, your donations will be greatly welcomed. To the government, we urge you to redouble your efforts to ensure people are fed. MPs, use your constituency funds to help out those in your community. Political parties, urge your donors to put their money where your voters’ mouths are.
This is a long battle, and we are only just starting to see its effects.
A tough choice
The story of two Americans being allowed to enter The Bahamas is a curious one.
A flight arrived bringing COVID-19 testing supplies – but once in the country, the two Americans on board asked for permission to disembark.
Caught on the hop, Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands gave his approval.
There clearly seems to have been some weighing of the situation – the need for test kits against the fact of allowing people into the country when the borders are closed.
There’s an old saying about the need to bring about the greatest amount of good for the greatest number. Clearly, there is good for the Bahamian people in obtaining these test kits. However, Dr Sands seems to have been put in a bad position by the donors and tried to find the best way out with not a lot of time to think it through. The looks are bad, of course – two well-off arrivals circumventing the rules at least in part because they showed up with a donation. But had Dr Sands said no and turned away both arrivals and test kits, would that be better?
The arrivals should not have placed Dr Sands in such a position – it would have been very easy to ask beforehand rather than force the decision when they got here.
We believe there was no easy choice for Dr Sands. Credit to him for taking the responsibility, but even he admits he might have done things differently if he were to do it again. By taking it on his shoulders, he leaves it to others to decide if he did the right thing, and that’s as straight an answer as there should always be from politicians.
One question though - what do we do if the same thing happens again? Let’s have our answer ready now rather than be caught in the moment. And as for Bahamians abroad wondering why they can’t come home when Americans can fly in? Let’s bring them home too.