Hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas
On September 1, 2019, a massive Category 5 hurricane hit the Bahamas, bringing mass destruction and devastation to the people living there. The storm, named Dorian, took the lives of 70 people and left thousands homeless. A storm of this magnitude impacts all people in its path, yet those hit hardest are the ones living in poverty. During the hurricane season between June and November, hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas by increasing the unemployment rate, exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities and leaving many without access to food, water and shelter.

Unemployment Rates Rise

The Bahamas relies heavily on tourism from resorts, casinos and cruise lines to support its economy. Bahamians living in poverty-stricken conditions depend upon employment from these resorts to support their families. A large storm like Dorian often reduces these resorts and casinos to rubble, leaving thousands unemployed.

Before the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian, the unemployment rate stood at 10.9%; however, after the storm, the unemployment rate rose to a staggering 50%. With a fractured economy, an abundance of destroyed homes and limited food and water, survivors of these massive storms are forced to leave their homes and families to seek employment elsewhere.

Poverty-Stricken Neighborhoods Are Left Helpless

Of those missing and pronounced dead following Dorian, many were Bahamians living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The Mudd, a neighborhood well-known for its high levels of poverty, is just one of many that have been leveled by major hurricanes. Thousands of Haitian immigrants seek refuge in unstable wooden homes, which are no match for hurricane-force winds. 185 mph winds blown these neighborhoods to pieces.

In an interview conducted with Dorval Darlier, the chargé d’affaires of the Haitian Embassy in the Bahamas, Darlier described the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in The Mudd. He stated, “It looked like a bomb just exploded. It is completely destroyed. Not even a piece of wood stands up in The Mudd. If someone was not evacuated, they have to be dead.” Approximately 3,500 Haitian immigrants live in The Mudd and other poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

The devastation left by a hurricane increases public health risks, particularly for the poor. Bahamians living in poverty tend to take refuge in the most vulnerable areas. When a storm threatens the island, they are the least able to afford to evacuate and are often forced to stay in life-threatening conditions. Bahamian officials are required to visit these neighborhoods and urge residents to evacuate; however, many refuse to leave because they either have no place to go or are living in the Bahamas illegally.

Hurricanes Expose Inequality

In the past, hurricanes like Dorian have been known to expose the severity of inequality in the Bahamas. People living in poverty-stricken conditions, primarily Haitian immigrants, are left without homes. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis vowed not to rebuild immigrant neighborhoods like The Mudd: he mandated that those left without homes after a storm are to be deported.

Shella Monestime, a Haitian evacuee and resident of one of these neighborhoods, spoke out following the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and the Prime Minister’s response. She stated, “We just lost everything. We have no clothes, no home, no money. We have to start all over again. People died, and all they are talking about is people getting deported.”

Relief workers in the country have emphasized the drastic nature of this social inequality. A lack of legal papers and uncertain statuses prevent immigrants from receiving assistance after a hurricane. Fear of arrest and deportation has forced the Haitian community into hiding. The Bahamian government has instructed relief workers not to provide assistance to Haitians without proper documentation.As a result, they are often left homeless and helpless after massive storms ravage the area.

Hurricane Aid Provides Hope

The American Red Cross is just one organization that helps rebuild and aid people impacted by hurricanes. In response to Hurricane Dorian, the American Red Cross provided food, shelter, clean water and emergency supplies to thousands of families displaced by the storm. As of June 30, 2020, the Red Cross had distributed over $11 million in cash to over 3,000 Bahamian families. This funding has helped families recover financially and overcome many challenges brought on by Dorian.

In partnerships with Mercy Corps, World Central Kitchen and CORE, the American Red Cross is able to continue providing thousands of gallons of clean drinking water, cash grants to business owners, fresh meals, rent payment assistance and physical aid in rebuilding homes. More than 50 disaster respondents have been deployed to the Bahamas, each with specializations in varying categories including IT/Telecommunications, relief distributions, cash-as-aid, information management, communications, shelter and finance.

 

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has already been extremely active, with 11 storms as of August 6 and a prediction of 10 more named storms to be added to the list by the end of the year. Although hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas, aid from organizations like the American Red Cross provides hope to those affected. Despite past destruction, the island continually recovers and proves its resilience as a country.

– Jacey Reece
Photo: Pixabay

Bahamian Charities Combating COVID-19Last year, Hurricane Dorian brought massive destruction to The Bahamas. The damage was unlike anything the islands had ever witnessed before, leaving around 70,000 Bahamians homeless. Although much of the Bahamian infrastructure is leveled, resilient islanders were quick to begin reestablishing their livelihoods. Now the outbreak of COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill, slicing through The Bahamas’ tourism economic sectors. Paired with the global shortage on toiletries and PPE, the citizens of these popular vacation islands are withstanding two pandemics; fortunately, however, local charities have stepped in a major way. Here are three Bahamian charities providing life-saving aid through these times of struggle.

3 Bahamian Charities Combating COVID-19

  1. The Dignified Project: People living in poverty around the world already struggled to obtain supplies and health services. Now that stores and public transports are closed due to natural disasters and the virus, combined with rising prices and economic uncertainty, the impoverished are facing even greater hurdles. But imagine a massive shortage of essential items that help manage the natural disposition of the body. No, not toilet paper. Think more on the lines of tampons. It’s called period poverty. One major, yet underrated stifle for the economic development of menstruating women is the lack of access to hygiene products that help manage menstrual health. The Dignified Project is a nonprofit organization that provides young girls with feminine hygiene products. Not only do they provide these essential items for free, but they also educate young girls in The Bahamas on building confidence, demonstrating body positivity and increasing awareness of health and “social concerns related to their biological development.” According to its Instagram page, The Dignified Project offers two kits: bras, underwear and other essential undergarments; soap and tampons or pads. Phillipa Dean, the initiative’s founder, reported that the organization has been distributing products more frequently due to heightened demand from COVID-19, which first ravaged the country on March 15.
  2. The Bahamas Light Industries Development Council (BLIDC): The Bahamas Light Industries Development Council (BLIDC) is an organization formed by and for Bahamian manufacturers and producers. The organization’s aim is to “promote and expand, and to preserve and protect light industries operating in the Bahamas.” In the past, members of the BLIDC, alongside other companies like bakeries and breweries, have rendered services to non-governmental organizations by aiding struggling households and communities. Although businesses like BLIDC are not fully performing manufacturing functions, these Bahamian charities still ensure access to food and beverages. Upon hearing about the recent shortage grits, a prominent food staple in Nassau, the BLIDC reached out to island partners in search of resources. In addition to supporting local businesses, the BLIDC donated what was harvested to the Bahamas Feeding Network.
  3. Hands for Hunger: Volunteer drivers are delivering food packages to Bahamians in need. According to its website, Hands for Hunger has delivered more than 150,000 pounds of food to 40 agencies since the dawn of COVID-19 in March including senior living homes, children’s homes and churches. As a result of this organization’s efforts, more than 2,100 Bahamians are being assisted bi-weekly with approximately 400 families having received food assistance over a three-month period.

Between natural disasters, a pandemic and pre-existing struggles with poverty, the Bahamas undoubtedly have several unique challenges left to work through. However, with continued support from passionate Bahamian charities, there is promise for the nation to repair itself in the near future.

– Katrina Robinson
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in the BahamasThe Bahamas is a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean known for its tourism and beautiful beaches. However, despite being a relatively wealthy country due to tourism, hunger in the Bahamas remains a prominent concern.

The Bahamas also face frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes which further aggravate the issue. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has also left many Bahamians without access to food. Furthermore, these disasters also increase the price and decrease the availability of food in the country. Here are five facts about hunger in the Bahamas.

5 Facts About Hunger in the Bahamas

  1. Prevalence: According to Hands for Hunger, one in every 10 people in the Bahamas experience extreme food insecurity and have less than $4 to spend on food a day. This prevalence is significant because only 10% of the food consumed is produced in the Bahamas. A study by The Caribbean Agro-Economic Society concluded 41% of the households were food insecure and factors such as age, education and gender all played a factor. Around 20% of households required assistance from the government to provide adequate food to their families. It also concluded that people take an active role in producing at least one aspect of their food, revealing a reported 45 % caught their own fish. To combat this issue and encourage more active participation in acquiring food, the government is pushing for more local farming by encouraging farmer’s markets and community gardens.
  2. Agriculture: The soil in the Bahamans is unsuitable for commercial farming due to its high pH levels. This leads to a greater need for the importation of many crops. This increases the selling price and contributes to greater food insecurity. Additionally, farmers struggle to produce enough food to reach wholesalers, forcing them to discard most of their crops. The Ministry of and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are working to teach farmers more sustainable farming. The Ministry is also working to create a Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Action Plan to help the Bahamas become more independent in producing food by using new farming techniques.
  3. Impact on Education:  School-aged children in the Bahamas are largely affected by hunger. Food insecurity impacts a child’s ability to comprehend and learn information effectively because they are constantly concerned about where their next meal will come from. Research shows a correlation between food insecurity and poor academic performance, which can lead to dropping out. The Bahamas has a National Lunch Program in effect and is researching ways to expand the program and provide food to children over weekends and school breaks. Researchers found that while most students on the island of Eleuthera consume breakfast, around 65 % of their schools do not have an option for breakfast. School administrators also reported children coming to school hungry and only consuming unhealthy junk food such as chips and soda. Researchers suggest more education about healthy eating habits with both parents and children as well as a National Breakfast plan should be implemented. These changes would improve children’s school performance and overall wellbeing.
  4. COVID-19’s effect: COVID-19 has revealed the extent of hunger in the Bahamas. Importing food has become more difficult with less overall production and travel restrictions causing citizens to panic. However, it has brought the issue to the forefront of the government’s mind and forced them to act. The government is considering how to gain greater accessible land and more ways to help small farmers get started. The pandemic served as a true wake up call for the government to address the problem head-on.
  5. Progress: A non-profit organization, Hands for Hunger, is dedicated to solving the hunger crisis in the Bahamas. Since its founding in 2008, they have provided Bahamians more than one million pounds of redistributed food. Hands for Hunger works to ensure a larger number of food-secure Bahamians; the group redistributes food from restaurants, hotels, etc., and provides it to families in need. Furthermore, Hands for Hunger is helping reduce CO2 emissions because less food is going to landfills. Hands for Hunger continues to expand its network and is leading the Bahamas to a brighter future.

Change is needed and coming into the food production system in the Bahamas. With improved access for citizens to independently produce more food, the Bahamas will have less obesity, greater academic accomplishments, improved economy, and better quality of life for its citizens. Organizations such as Hands for Hunger are at the forefront of this change. These changes will allow the Bahamas to be known to the world as more than just a beautiful vacation spot.

– Allison Caso
Photo: Flickr

natural disastersWithin the past few years, natural disasters have been occurring more frequently with increasing intensity. Examples of natural disasters include hurricanes, floods, droughts, landslides and earthquakes. The greater the impact, the higher the mortality rate. This results in a higher level of destruction and trauma for those in the region. It is estimated that natural disasters cost the government around “a third of a trillion dollars” to rebuild communities and provide resources for the public.

Natural Disasters in Developing Countries

Natural disasters affect developing countries the most because many lack the resources and funding to protect their communities adequately. Families in developing countries do not live in homes prepared to withstand such disasters. As a result, many face displacement under these tragic circumstances.

Although natural disasters damage communities and put many people through challenging situations, several organizations prioritize bringing relief to these communities. UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity and International Relief Teams are some that focus on bringing resources to developing countries.

3 Organizations Bringing Aid to Developing Countries

  1. Habitat for Humanity: With more than 40 years of experience, Habitat for Humanity focuses on building safe and affordable housing for those affected by natural disasters. Its disaster preparation plan focuses on disaster risk reduction training, disaster-resistant construction and community preparation. In Puerto Rico, 99% of homes do not have flood insurance. In 2017, hurricanes destroyed 90% of the homes there. The organization created 2,000 solar panels, 2,000 solar lanterns and 2,000 shelter repair kits to provide residents with essential repairs. In a partnership with World Vision, Habitat for Humanity also repaired and built homes for 2oo families in the Dominican Republic.
  2. UNICEF: When natural disasters occur, UNICEF is one of the first responders. It provideswater purification tablets, vaccines and nutritional supplements for children and nursing mothers.” It also supplies school kits, temporary shelter and trauma counseling. The organization helps displaced children who may have lost their way looking for shelter reunite with their parents. After Mozambique’s country was swept over by a cyclone in March 2019, UNICEF assisted many families with urgent needs, focusing on malnutrition prevention and locating children who may have been left orphaned. It also helped get children back into school. Within a month, UNICEF gave cholera vaccinations to 900,000 people and restored Beira’s water supply for 500,00 people. It also helped fight malaria by providing 500,000 mosquito nets.
  3. International Relief Teams: In September 2019, category 5 hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas before heading towards the United States. In the Bahamas, 43 people died. During this time, the International Relief Teams provided the Bahamas with 5,000 tarps for temporary shelter, 21,024 ready-to-eat meals. It also set up 158 generators and 2,000 solar lights. The hurricane also destroyed around 45% of homes in Grand Bahama and Abaco. With the help of donations, however, the organization hired local laborers to help rebuild more than 100 homes.

During trying situations and natural disasters, humanity has a miraculous gift of coming together and taking care of one another. Whether providing critical resources or rebuilding homes, many organizations go out of their way to help others.

Paola Quezada
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in The Bahamas
The Bahamas is still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which greatly injured two of the countries’ islands in late 2019. However, the residents are facing a bigger challenge involving access to clean water and toilets, which is putting them at great risk of a major public health emergency. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in The Bahamas.

10 Facts About Sanitation in The Bahamas

  1. The Lack of Access to Clean Water: A lack of access to clean water often becomes a public health issue very quickly. A lot of the water in The Bahamas became contaminated with salt water right after the hurricane. Water Mission, a nonprofit organization based in North Carolina, designs, builds and implements safe water and sanitation solutions. After the Dorian hurricane, the organization tried to help sanitation in The Bahamas by implementing a process called fine-filtration, which removes salt from water through reverse osmosis.
  2. Diseases: Each day, around 6,000 children die from waterborne diseases around the world. The Grand Bahama Island experienced flooding after Hurricane Dorian, potentially increasing the transmission of waterborne diseases like diarrhea and cholera. UNICEF has provided aid by providing WASH services. Additionally, Heart to Heart International has been on the ground in the aftermath of Hurrican Dorian, administering tetanus vaccines to prevent infections from unclean water.
  3. Sewage: The Bahamas has always struggled to bring clean water to its community. The Water and Sewerage Corporation emerged in 1976 to help bring clean water to all islands and received $32 million from the World Bank. By 2014, the corporation had saved over one billion gallons of water through the reduction of water losses in New Providence.
  4. Hospitals and Housing: The Bahamas has 28 health centers, 33 main clinics and 35 satellite clinics plus two private hospitals located in the main inhabited islands. After the Hurricane hit the Islands, the International Medical Corps provided help to The Bahamas by bringing in doctors and nurses, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene specialists and 140 water kits comprising of family filters and hygiene kits.
  5. Economy: With 14 other islands in good shape in the aftermath of Hurrican Dorian, the government encouraged tourists to not cancel their vacation trips. The Minister of Tourism in The Bahamas said in an interview with The New York Times that the only means of aiding those in the north of The Bahamas was to continue tourism in the other 14 islands. This would allow the country to rebuild Abaco and Grand Bahama and help fix sewage and provide clean water. Around 4 million tourists visited The Bahamas in the six months before the hurricane, and only 20 percent of those travelers visited Abaco and Grand Bahama Island. This represented more than half of its gross domestic product.
  6. Health Care: Health Care has been one of the main priorities in The Bahamian governments’ agenda. In fact, it directed 12 percent of its budget to health. Around 47.2 percent of the general population had health insurance, and females were more likely to get insurance (47 percent) than males (45 percent). The primary care package in The Bahamas is medical services, medications and imaging and laboratory services. After the hurricane, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) sent professionals to assist in on-site assessments of health infrastructures and water sanitation and hygiene facilities (WASH) that had operation rooms flooded with contaminated water.
  7. Urban vs. Rural: Urban areas often bring development, better health care and living conditions. However, despite the fact that The Bahamas has a high percentage of urban areas at 83 percent in comparison to the 16.98 percent of rural areas, it still has limited water development. In fact, the country is not in the top 20 for the Caribbean.
  8. Current Poverty Rate: Sanitation in The Bahamas is always in danger because of the constant threats of new storms passing by the islands. In 2017, before hurricane Dorian, 14.8 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. That percentage grew rather than decreased leading up to 2017.
  9. Population Growth: The Bahamas had a population of 392,225 as of 2020, but has been suffering a decrease since 2007. In that year, the growth percentage was at 1.7 percent, whereas it was at 0.97 percent in 2020. With the increase in population, the National Health System Strategic Plan is aiming to educate communities to ensure optimal health and good quality of life. However, even with numbers, The Bahamas is still a country with limited basic sanitation services.
  10. Menstrual Hygiene Management: After hurricane Dorian, many women and adolescents did not have shelter or access to toilets. This presented a lack of privacy and compromised their ability to manage menstruation hygienically and with dignity. The Women’s Haven, a company distributing organic feminine hygiene products, wants to help Bahamians by switching to a better approach that will help improve their menstrual hygiene.

While Dorian impacted sanitation in The Bahamas in late 2019, the challenges for clean, accessible water continues to affect Bahamians today. With continued investment in tourism and the involvement of relief organizations, The Bahamas should hopefully recover soon.

– Merlina San Nicolás
Photo: Pixabay

Health Care in the Bahamas
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, located near the coast of Florida, is a very popular vacation destination during the summer months. Attracting millions of visitors each year, it is home to some of the most iconic beaches in the world. In fact, the country’s economy thrives mostly on its tourist industry. Lesser known, beyond the country’s beautiful scenery, is its progressive health care system. In recent years, Bahamians have enjoyed improvements to the country’s health care due to the Ministry of Health. Its mission statement is “to ensure that the highest quality of services for health promotion, health protection and health care are accessible to all residents of The Bahamas in order to achieve an optimal level of health.” Here are nine facts about health care in The Bahamas.

9 Facts About Health Care in The Bahamas

  1. NHI Bahamas: In January 2016, the government began a new national health insurance program called NHI Bahamas, with an objective to make it “modern, affordable and accessible.” The government created this in response to 70 percent of the Bahamian population not having health insurance. As a result of this, the average person was paying about $2,300 each year for health services. Enrollment for the new program began in 2017. The program aims to decrease the number of citizens with diseases that a vaccine can easily prevent, such as hepatitis B and tetanus.
  2. Free Health Care: Basic Bahamian health care is free for expectant mothers, children, civil servants and all people age 60 and over.
  3. Full Health Care Benefits: All legal residents of The Bahamas are eligible to receive full health care benefits. There are no limitations based on economic or health status.
  4. NHI Program Coverage Limitations: The NHI program does have some limitations. For example, it does not cover overseas care, pharmacy services or other services provided by specialists. This includes dental health or psychotherapy.
  5. Private Health Insurance: While non-residents can receive health care if necessary, recommendations determine that long-term visitors should purchase private health insurance. This is because the country does not include a national health insurance scheme as a part of its health care system.
  6. Bahamian Health Care Costs: The exact cost for Bahamian health care, beyond the basic level, can vary significantly. A basic inpatient plan for one person can be as low as $54 a month. Meanwhile, the plan with the most benefits can be as expensive as $1,092 a month. The price may also vary with the inclusion of dental plans or maternal care during pregnancy.
  7. Hospitals: There are three government hospitals in The Bahamas: The Princess Margaret Hospital, Grand Bahama Health Service and the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center. The Public Hospitals Authority, one of the highest quality health care systems in the Caribbean area, runs them. Further, two private hospitals, JCI-accredited Doctor’s Hospital and the Lyford Cay are also in The Bahamas. Additionally, there are 55 health centers, 59 satellite clinics and 288 privately-owned institutions across the islands.
  8. Medical Professionals: Highly-trained health care professionals, including doctors and nurses, provide the best quality services. Many of these professionals attain their education abroad, including Europe, the United States and Canada.
  9. Medical Costs: Compared to the United States, the cost of medical procedures is surprisingly low. Even when people receive these procedures in a private hospital, estimates determine the cost to be 30 or even 40 percent less than in a U.S. hospital.

Typically, many view The Bahamas as simply a vacation destination with beautiful beaches. However, it is important to recognize the improvements that the Bahamian health care system has made as well. These improvements will continue to ensure a healthy and more progressive Bahamas.

A. O’Shea
Photo: Flickr

Help the Bahamas
After a record-breaking 185 mph category 5 hurricane ravaged The Bahamas in September 2019, the island is in need of assistance. Efforts to help the most affected are now accepting donations and aid in any way possible. There are many local drives around the nation. There are also many organizations that are receiving monetary donations. Below are five ways to help The Bahamas through organizations that are receiving monetary and material donations.

Five Ways to Help The Bahamas

  1. World Central Kitchen (WCKitchen): Celebrity chef and philanthropist José Andrés is notable for his relief efforts after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico in 2017. He led kitchens all over the island and brought quality meals to families. In 2018, WCKitchen provided over five million fresh meals to people in need. He and his crew are now in The Bahamas providing the same relief and require as much help as they can receive. WCKitchen is receiving donations online to continue providing meals to the families on the island.
  2. The American Red Cross: The American Red Cross responds to an average of more than 62,000 disasters every year. Although much of the work and donations go to the United States, the well known nonprofit organization has a separate fundraising campaign that will apply directly to the disaster relief for The Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.
  3. The Bahamas Red Cross Society: The Bahamas Red Cross is also receiving donations to enable it to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from Hurricane Dorian. It urges people to send non-perishable goods, baby supplies, cleaning items and bedding.
  4. The Smile Trust: Florida native Valencia Gunder is the executive director of the Smile Trust. Since February 2014, the Smile Trust, or formerly, Make the Homeless Smile, has provided approximately 100,000 meals to people between Miami, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. She is now on the ground, helping people in The Bahamas recover from Hurricane Dorian. Valencia Gunder has said that the Bahamian people have a long history and crucial influence with the United States, specifically South Florida. She says that U.S. citizens should view The Bahamas as neighbors and family, and should find it necessary to provide aid to them in their time of need.
  5. The National Association of The Bahamas: The National Association of The Bahamas (NAB) is a nonprofit organization. Volunteers and friends of The Bahamas support it, working to better the communities in The Bahamas. After the devastation of Hurricane Dorian on the northern Islands of The Bahamas, the organization is reaching out to the public for support to help the people affected by this monster hurricane.

Americans should continue to donate essentials to nearby drives. However, there is a need to provide monetary donations to no-profit organizations that have teams on the island preparing for the recovery of living conditions. The organizations mentioned above are only just a few ways to help The Bahamas.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

Hurricane ResilienceHurricane Dorian is the latest in a long series of hurricanes that have hit the Caribbean — impacting the Bahamas the worst. Initial reports from the U.N. estimated that nearly 70,000 people were in need of food, water and shelter in the archipelago and that around 30 people had died as a result of the hurricane.

For the estimated 10 percent of the population of the Bahamas who live below the poverty line, recovering from natural disasters such as this is a particular challenge. As a result, there is a massive need for programs that not only address the short-term impacts of hurricanes but also focus on the importance of long-term hurricane resilience.

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), based in Barbados, has pledged to provide $1 million in aid to the Bahamas, with $700,000 in the form of a loan and the remaining $300,000 as a grant. While disaster relief helps improve recovery for local economies and minimize the impact for impoverished communities, there are also other avenues of aid that the CDB could pursue which take the form of mental health programs and debt repayment plans.

Mental Health

As a part of the Stronger Together campaign, in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organization, the CDB has also placed an increased focus on addressing the negative mental health impacts of hurricanes — which traditionally get little attention. However, this type of support is key to help uplift those who experience the trauma of losing their homes or worse, their loved ones.

The campaign, launched in July 2019, aims to train 16 new mental health service professionals, ranging from psychologists to social workers to promote resilience in the face of natural disasters. This program could have a major impact on helping people in the Bahamas recover, while also offering a path towards future mental resilience in the event of another damaging hurricane. This is especially valuable for communities living in poverty.

Debt Repayment

High levels of debt are a substantial impediment to the massive discretionary spending needed to successfully recover from a hurricane, as nations are often forced to choose between allocating resources towards serving the immediate needs of their citizens or maintaining their current repayment plans. As such, a debt relief program could prove incredibly beneficial in the Bahamas, as the country had a debt burden of $8.2 billion prior to the events of Hurricane Dorian.

There is already precedent for the CDB to offer debt restructuring opportunities. For instance, following Hurricane Ivan, Grenada was able to re-negotiate its debt repayment plan to cease repayment following a natural disaster. Some have argued that this program should be extended to all nations in the event of a natural disaster.

This would help to reduce an unsustainable reliance on foreign aid, as nations find themselves falling deeper into debt and failing to provide adequate assistance to their own citizens. Not only do such increases in debt leave countries less prepared for another similar natural disaster, but they also limit the amount of aid which governments can extend to the citizens facing the most significant damages as a result of the disasters.

Conclusion

While the recent pledge of $1 million in aid to the Bahamas by the CDB is a useful step in mitigating the impact of Hurricane Dorian, the CDB also has several other methods of improving not only hurricane recovery but also hurricane resilience. With investment in the mental health field, the CDB is working to train mental health services professionals who can provide psychological support to citizens. This could be supplemented by a re-negotiated debt repayment plan for the Bahamas, with many arguing that such a program would reduce the financial burden placed on the Bahamas by the need to take more loans.

Alexander Sherman
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Living Conditions in the Bahamas

The Bahamas is an island country located in the Atlantic Ocean. The population totals at just over 400,000 people. The total GDP stands at $11.6 billion, and the country has a market economy. The Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Americans today and their economy is finance and tourism based. These top 10 facts about living conditions in the Bahamas presented below will illustrate the way of life on the islands.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in the Bahamas

  1. The capital of Nassau is home to almost 70 percent of the total population. Second and third largest cities are Lucaya and Freeport. More than 300,000 people live in these three cities. The majority of the economy is located here, and like any major cities, they contain elite suburbs and impoverished slums.
  2. The majority of revenue coming into this tropical country is through tourism as 60 percent of total GDP comes from this industry. In 2007, tourism provided over two million jobs to Bahamian citizens. Just under 50 percent of the working population is directly employed in tourism and another 20 percent are employed indirectly.
  3. The U.S. provides the country with the majority of its tourism and international trade. Economic state in the Bahamas relies heavily on the economic state of the neighboring country. The financial crisis of 2008 negatively affected the country. The GDP decreased by 2.3 percent.
  4. The cost of living in the Bahamas is 31.75 percent higher than the cost of living in the U.S. This includes the prices of groceries, rent and restaurants. When comparing the gross national income (GNI) per capita of less than $22,000 with the one of the U.S. at $58,207, the poverty level seems much more extreme. The U.S. is encouraging the Bahamas to diversify its market, specifically with agricultural exports to increase their GNI.
  5. The national poverty rate of the Bahamas sits at a little more than 9 percent. The highest rate is around 20 percent in the Other Family Islands, home to 6 percent of the population. The Other Family Islands sit well outside the reach of jobs created by tourism, hospitals and education while the main islands of Nassau and Lucaya, Freeport contain a plethora of resources.
  6. Education has seen considerable growth in the Bahamas in the past 60 years. Almost $5 billion was invested to implement computer labs in public schools and teachers were provided with extensive training in technology. Education is compulsory from the ages of 5 to 16. The government allocates 20 percent of the budget to the public school system. The gross enrollment rate for primary school was over 95 percent in 2016 and the gross enrollment rate of secondary school was a little over 90 percent. These positive changes have contributed to the country’s 96 percent literacy rate.
  7. The infant mortality rate has decreased from over 11 deaths per 1,000 births in 2007 to just over five deaths per 1,000 births in 2017. The government has established the Healthy Lifestyles Initiative to reduce deaths due to lifestyle-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and cancer. Even though health care is improving, there is still work to be done in the prevention of spreadable diseases. In 2013, close to 500 individuals died from AIDS. This unfortunate number demonstrates the high infection rate of HIV/AIDS within the country. Since 2013, the government has increased education as well as immunization for adults to reduce the spread of diseases such as hepatitis B, yellow fever and influenza. All children enrolled in school are required to be vaccinated and these vaccinations start after the first 28 days of life. They include hepatitis B, meningitis, polio and influenza.
  8. Natural disasters contribute heavily to economic hardship and living conditions in the Bahamas due to poor infrastructure. The Bahamas sustained $3 billion worth of storm damage from the years 1950 to 2014. Hurricane Frances that wreaked havoc on the Grand Bahamas island in 2004 caused a 14 percent drop in the country’s GDP. The last hurricane to hit the island country was hurricane Irma that tore through the Caribbean killing 24 people in 2017. It was reported that Irma matched the financial blow of hurricane Matthew that cost the country $600 million in damages.
  9. Most endangered categories are children, single mothers, the elderly and the homeless. The Great Commissions Ministry is working to address the homeless and hunger within the Bahamas. They offer services such as daily food packages, job assistance, housing assistance, a drug abuse program and emergency housing for those who lack the basic necessities needed to survive. Hand for Hunger is also working hard to end hunger in the Bahamas by striving towards their goal of making sure every individual in the Bahamas has three nutritious meal every day. They do this by collecting donated food that would initially go to waste from grocery stores and restaurants and putting in front of those who need it most.
  10. There is little to no fresh water resources in the Bahamas since there are no freshwater rivers or streams available. The primary source of drinking water comes from groundwater which must be desalinated. The Carribean Development Bank and Government of the Commonwealth have launched a project to improve the water supply. The project aims to improve the infrastructure of potable water to 3,400 households.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in the Bahamas show the development of this island nation that has become one of the richest countries in the Americans, mainly due to its location and tourism. They also indicate fields where improvement is needed, such as prevention of spreadable diseases and freshwater resources.

Natasha Eckelbarger
Photo: Flickr

Education in the Bahamas

The quality of education in the Bahamas has been improving since the late 1950s. These improvements have been spurred on by leaders of the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT), which has recognized the failures of the previous education system.

The Education Act, which was revised in 1996, is the primary education law governing the Bahamas today. It guarantees free education for all residents between five and 16 years of age. About 75% of children attend public primary schools, but most nurseries and pre-schools are run by churches. There are 170 educational institutions in the Bahamas, which is a great number considering the population of the archipelago. In 2014, the Bahamas introduced the National High School Diploma, to create a standard for minimum basic education for every child. This was a big step in improving the education system by ensuring equal education for all children.

In the nation, over 100% of children received primary education in 2006 and this trend has been continuing into the present. This is a very impressive rate, especially given that there is no disparity between access to education between boys and girls. In 2003, the literacy rate for adults ages 15 and over was 95.5%. This percentage was even higher for young adults aged 15 to 24. Most of the population in the Bahamas is under 60 years old, meaning that the education system in the country has been relatively successful in having literate citizens since the 1960s.

A few years ago, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology gave a statement about recognizing the need for a larger skilled workforce. The government invested $4 million in Information and Communications Technology in public schools to better prepare students for a technologically advancing world. Career Academies were implemented in high schools to allow students to gain specific skills for the job market. These skills include hospitality management and business studies, which should help them get jobs in the Bahamian tourism industry.

The Minister also indicated that the Bahamas would focus on developing better quality teachers. An In-Service Professional Development Institute was opened to provide standardized and more effective training for teachers and other educators in the country. These programs are still in development but have proven to be valuable steps forward for the nation.

Ultimately, education in the Bahamas is on the right track, as the government is prioritizing high-quality education for all. They should continue to implement new and improved programs, as well as start focusing on increasing the number of residents who have access to, and attend, higher education institutions. With these current programs and a steady plan for improvement in the future, the Bahamas can surely create an excellent education system for it citizens.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr