I am sure everyone who is reading this, even if you do not live in the southeastern US, has heard about Hurricane Dorian. As I write this, I am waiting in Jacksonville to see how close to the coast it comes and how much it will affect us here and out at the beaches. With that said, I want to share a little bit about what it is like waiting for a Category 4 hurricane to hit in a 3rd world country and what it will be like for those who live in the Bahamas over the next few weeks and months.
The first thing is that I do not know how it feels to go through a hurricane in 3rd world conditions. Even our home in Haiti is nice compared to what is around and I always have the option of getting on a plane as soon as things calm down a little. I just want to express the idea that there is a different perspective than what any of us, no matter how hard you or your city has been hit with a storm, in the developed world could ever comprehend.
My experience is with Hurricane Matthew when the eye of this category 5 storm made landfall a few miles away from my home in Haiti. The rain, wind, and destruction that it caused was difficult to describe, and the number of deaths in southwestern Haiti that it caused probably still cannot be accurately measured (the government estimates 546 deaths while many other sources believe there were over 1,500). In a country with about 11 million people total, over 1,500 died in one storm.
What that means is that we have to pray hard for the Bahamas, and I mean harder than we could ever understand. While the infrastructure of the Bahamas is considerably stronger than that of Haiti (to the point that there actually were a few storm shelters) it is nothing like what we have here. Think about some of these points:
- They could not evacuate. Where would they go?
- Essentially nobody could not get on a plane and leave ahead of time. The only ones that could are the ones whose homes were probably built to do ok through the storm.
- The storm shelters provided are nothing like what we have here.
- The supplies needed to get through a prolonged storm would not sustain the population.
- The storm sat on top of Grand Bahama Island for a ridiculous amount of time and it will take a long time to understand and count the casualties and the loss.
- Most 3rd world countries do not have any type of insurance infrastructure. Basically, whatever people lost is just lost and there will be no insurance companies coming through to help.
- The Bahamas will rely on donations from other countries, mostly to organizations that do not regularly operate in the Bahamas like the Red Cross. This will probably make rebuilding and relief efforts much more difficult than they should be (at least this is what happens in Haiti).
- Most homes in the most devastated areas will be lost.
- Aside from everything else, local produce and local goods will be destroyed so costs will rise when aid begins to subside.
- It will take years for people to get their lives back together.
Some of the points above may not be as accurate for the Bahamas as they were for Haiti, but I hope you get my point. A catastrophic event like this in the Bahamas is not the same as one that happens in America. This is a call to prayer, a call to give (but only if you can give intelligently to an organization that you know will accomplish things on the ground), and a call to understand that a 3rd world catastrophe is different than anything we could ever fathom.
Please be smart about helping. Do not take a trip unnecessarily, do not give to an organization that you do not know or that does not already operate there, and do not do things based solely on emotion. Pray. Pray a lot and pray before you act. Make sure that what you are doing will help the people there and then do it with all of your heart. Unfortunately, people (including reputable organizations based on what we have seen in our short time in Haiti) take advantage of the generosity that is sparked from a catastrophe and it is up to us to help in the best way we can.