MARSH HARBOUR, ABACO – The need for food-assistance has tripled in Abaco prompting food security concerns as officials record an influx of people returning to the storm-torn island.
The trend also presents increased challenges for shelter and the delivery of healthcare as people chase job opportunities with no housing and little resources nearly two months after the monster storm.
This comes as major relief organizations like the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), and World Central Kitchen (WCK) plan exit strategies for early December.
A WFP representative expressed concern over the government’s plan to maintain food security, citing the organizations role as a “glue” between different agencies at a briefing last week.
The WFP official said: “From the figures that we’ve received from district administrators, who are doing a tremendous amount of really good work on the ground, the figures have increased by three times compared to last month.
“Last month we were looking at about 2,100 people. This month it’s about 6,100 which shows us a very big increase in people returning.”
The number of people receiving assistance from the WFP has mushroomed from around 2,100 people last month, to around 6,100 this month, the official said.
The WFP official noted some administrators were still processing data manually, adding the figures may “need to be taken with a grain of salt”.
“But either way enormous increase of figures of people coming back wanting to return to normality.”
WFP is a branch of the United Nations, and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security.
Days after the storm, the WFP committed to the procurement and distribution of up to 85 metric tons of ready-to-eat meals.
For its part, WCK has served more than one million meals since Hurricane Dorian raked the northern Bahamas.
“WFP looking to leave in December,” the official said on Friday.
“I cannot speak for World Central Kitchen but they have also mentioned that they are looking to phase out (in December). I don’t know if they will extend or not but then the idea would be once we have a co-lead for food security to transition what WFP is doing here, this would have to be discussed with (Thompson), NEMA.
The official continued: “Because right now we’re acting as a glue between different entities, but if World Central Kitchen leaves, WFP leaves as the glue, people are relying on the hot meals and the in kind coming from NEMA. And yes Maxwell’s will open but a lot of people have lost their livelihoods…they lost their kitchens, stoves.”
The official added: “Just a few elements that could make this tricky because yes shelter, but food will be their first need.”
The overall shortage of healthcare providers on the island was also flagged at the meeting with Abaco redevelopment coordinator Jack Thompson, government agencies and international aid partners.
Non-governmental organization Heart to Heart International, one of the aid partners delivering health care services post-Dorian, noted patient counts had doubled over the past week.
“There is a trend of a lot of people returning from Nassau, who say they have work permits, and they’re working on the cays,” said an official from another major international relief organization on Friday.
The official shared his comments with Eyewitness News Online on the condition of anonymity.
“They’re coming back to chase work, according to them legally, but they have no homes or provisions here.
The official continued: “So there’s a dilemma for (government) and for them. They’re chasing the work in Nassau they have shelter and medical support but no work, and in Abaco they have to work but no shelter or medical.”