NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A local NGO member has warned that there could an “enormous” food security problem on Abaco over the next six months.
Ian Goodfellow, of 25 United, made the comments as he addressed the exit of international NGOs from the island.
“I foresee an enormous food problem in the Marsh Harbor area over the next six months,” Goodfellow told the audience of just over 150 Abaconians at a recent town hall meeting.
“It’s going to be very difficult. Someday has to step in on this one and we have to build some soup kitchens and we have to get some of these things done.”
The forum was staged by the recently formed “Abaco Will Rise” organization; and Goodfellow, along with Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis, and Chairman of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority John Michael Clarke were presenters at that meeting.
The World Food Programme (WFP) scaled down operations in The Bahamas by December 3.
In the aftermath of the deadly Category 5 storm, the agency handled the logistics of donated food items purchased by the National Emergency Management Agency, along with other forms of aid to storm-ravaged areas.
Officials have confirmed that extensive training sessions have been conducted for several Bahamians to continue the work initiated by WFP.
Speaking to the matter during his presentation, Lewis said provision are also being made to store food in Abaco.
“We do have containers [of food] to be shipped to Abaco and Grand Bahama,” he said.
“…Once we have the provisions made to store – and I want to say thank you to Mr. Charles Sawyer for making the space available – we can now store more goods in Abaco.”
Goodfellow also warned that as time continues to languish on, The Bahamas has to figure out what its next steps are in order to help itself and not rely on international NGOs.
“The average timeline on these NGOs is about 90 days,” he said. “People lose their concentration after 90 days. They lose their funding…They are done.
“We are talking Christmas now and it’s time for them to go off an do their family thing, so it’s for hard for them to be raising money.”
Goodfellow said some international NGOs have already “dissipated and disappeared” from north Abaco.
“It’s because they are running out of funds,” he continued.
“They can’t raise funds anymore because, it’s done. If we haven’t figured this thing out in 90 days, we’re done. That’s why are you starting to see some of these NGOs pulling out.”
Abaco Will Rise
Meanwhile, cofounder of the Abaco Will Rise organization Denalee Penn-Mackey, said the group has taken recovery efforts for displaced Abaconians in their own hands.
“We see the devastation that Dorian has done to our beautiful island and realized that it’s going to take some time to rebuild, to restore, and to revitalize our island,” Penn-Mackey said.
“Therefore, we as natives we should not lay down and play dead. It’s time for us to pull up our socks, roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
The group, through the sponsorship of an anonymous donor, has assisted 11 families who were evicted from the El Greco Beach Hotel by covering the costs of housing for the next six months.
Penn-Mackey also announced at the meeting that an international foundation called Dana I Care Foundation has pledged 50 pre-built homes for displaced residents.
She explained that the homes will be pre-built and packaged in trailers and sent to the island. She said it will only take about two months to set up those homes.
Penn-Mackey also announced that the same foundation also pledged a 40-foot container of building supplies for residents who need it.
She added: “We cannot only depend or expect the people only to help us alone and help us forever. Remember we are proud people and we must do our part.”
At that town hall displaced residents were given an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns regarding recovery efforts, rebuilding their homes, and timelines on how soon they would be able to return to Abaco.