Govt. received $1.7 billion in pledges to Dorian recovery

Govt. received $1.7 billion in pledges to Dorian recovery
A home in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, left in ruin nearly two moths after the passage of Hurricane Dorian (FILE PHOTO: ROYSTON JONES JR)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Forty-nine donors have pledged a combined $1.77 billion in value toward The Bahamas’ recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, a record storm that laid waste to communities of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis said $1.67 billion was pledged in equity and technical assistance from a single donor — though he did not name them.

Lewis acknowledged the debate surrounding the pledge conference held at Baha Mar in January, and the United Nations Development Program, during the 2020/2021 budget debate in Parliament yesterday.

He said another $42.8 million was pledged in grants; $53.2 million for technical assistance and gifts in-kind; and $109,000 in cash and sponsorship.

The minister also said Cable Bahamas donated $250,000, which went toward the small home repair program.

“We continue to communicate with donors, so the status and value of pledges continue to be updated and correlated with the DRA’s priority projects,” Lewis said.

“As some pledges for technical assistance or gifts in-kind represent discounts off future purchased services from a vendor, we may not be able to access the full value of the pledge as they may not be services we intend to purchase or be relevant to priority projects at this time.”

Lewis also said some donations were no longer available due to the changing economic climate or requirements associated with accessing the support.

“Some of the pledges have come with specific restrictions and may not line up immediate with priority reconstruction projects,” he said.

In January, the government said it had received $1.5 billion in pledge donations for Hurricane Dorian relief — almost $370,000 of which represented sponsorship from various entities raised during a pledging conference that month.

Disaster Reconstruction Authority Managing Director Katherine Forbes-Smith was expected to provide a full breakdown of the pledges in late January.

However, Lewis said the breakdown would be publicized by the end of the month.

Yesterday, the minister said new donors continue to come forward to support The Bahamas’ recovery.

Since January, 10 new pledges “of significant value” have been made to the Bahamas Disaster Account.

Ultimately, Lewis acknowledged that until a firm commitment is received, a pledge is exactly what it infers.

The National Emergency Agency (NEMA) manages the Bahamas Disaster Account.

The account was established to receive and manage monetary donations from the private sector and government.

A total of $16 million was donated to the account between September 2019 and May 2020 — $9.6 million in cash donations; $3.6 million from the government and approximately $2.8 million in the form of in-kind contributions such as food and other items, according to Lewis.

He said the government has spent $13.8 million from the account, leaving a $2.5 million balance.

He explained $1.5 million was spent on medical evacuations via helicopter; $16,000 of ferry evacuations; $250,000 on tent rentals; $17,000 for generation rental and $46,000 for washroom facilities.

Another $2.5 million was spent on recreational vehicles and associated cost; $4.6 million on dome structures; $275,000 of transportation and freight; $139,000 for debris clean up and $113,000 on other goods and services.

Storm preparedness

The minister said hurricane preparedness continues to be a focus for the ministry.

He announced that 95 shelters for all islands have been identified and prepared.

Additionally, NEMA is in discussions with civil and religious organizations on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama to determine the facilities that are available for use as shelters in the event of a storm, Lewis said.

“There is high expectation that the recently identified facilities will be added to the existing shelter list within the next 30 days,” he said.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing has shifted the ministry’s approach to shelters, and prompted NEMA to undertake a “classroom-style approach” to separate people in shelters.