NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A local non-governmental organization expressed concerns over mounting pressures to demand documentation from victims seeking aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Eyewitness News Online understands some NGOs in New Providence have been directed to request identification and other forms of documentation before handing out supplies, while NEMA distribution points are asking beneficiaries who show up to receive goods to show their government-issued ID.
In a recent interview, relief coordinator Alicia Wallace called on the government to prioritize meeting basic human needs over continuing to marginalize vulnerable Hurricane Dorian victims.
“The demand for documentation makes it even more difficult for people to access necessary resources,” said Wallace, who coordinates hurricane relief efforts by Equality Bahamas and Lend a Hand Bahamas.
“Food, water, hygiene products, and baby items are not ordinarily scarce, but have been challenging, to varying degrees dependent on identity and personal resources, for people directly impacted by Hurricane Dorian to find and attain.
She continued: “Transportation is one of the major issues faced when trying to collect items from distribution centers and attempting to replace lost documents.
“We need to ensure that we – the government, NGOs, private sector actors, and citizens – put the emphasis where it is needed most.”
At an official briefing in Abaco last month, international relief partners raised concerns that immigration enforcement activities have created barriers to access aid nearly two months after the deadly storm raked communities in Grand Bahama and Abaco.
Among its post-Dorian relief efforts, Equality Bahamas and Lend a Hand Bahamas have partnered to operate a hurricane relief center at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.
“We should be more concerned about meeting basic human needs and developing a long-term plan for recovery than implementing policies and practices that effectively lock particularly vulnerable groups of people out of receiving assistance,” Wallace continued.
“We cannot care more about targeting Haitian migrants than we do about human lives.
“People need to be employed, find temporary housing, rebuild homes and businesses, access mental health services, and help their children and elderly family members through this continued crisis.”
She said: “If we do not work together to ease the burden and facilitate progress, we do a disservice to ourselves and each other that we will not be able to undo, and the consequences will not quickly dissipate.
“As people already experiencing the climate (refugee) crisis, greater sensitivity and regard for human rights are required, and this includes the conscious decision to adopt non-discriminatory practices in our relief efforts.”
A Public Service Announcement from the National Emergency Management Agency and Department of Social Services, dated October 24, advised evacuees of distribution locations and ways to access aid.
The PSA read: “Evacuees are asked to bring a government identification during their visits”.
When asked to clarify the directive yesterday, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis said he was not aware it.
However, Lewis added measures have been taken to ensure individuals are not abusing the system.