A highly complex aid operation is under way in the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, with an array of international non-goverment organisations rubbing shoulders and occasionally treading on each other’s toes.

On Wednesday morning, when a vehicle drove up with medical supplies for an outpatient centre in Treasure Cay in the devastated Abaco Islands, a volunteer for Heart to Heart International politely advised: “We already have enough of everything – more than we can use.”

That afternoon, when a hundred tetanus vaccinations turned up at the Cooper’s Town community clinic, a health worker said: “We appreciate it but there’s no place we can store these.” He also noted: “We’ve only used one tetanus shot in four days.”

Since Dorian, a massive category 5 storm and one of the most powerful on record in the Caribbean, slammed into the Bahamas more than a week ago, the aid effort has been unusually complicated.

The sprawling set of islands provides logistical challenges, but proximity to the US has enabled philanthropists to send over private planes full of supplies. These are welcome, but hard to monitor and can lead to over-supply, prompting grumbles about lack of coordination.

There are also fewer entry restrictions than usual on individuals and organizations that want to help, leading to fears of a free-for-all. The Bahamas’ National Emergency Management Agency has acknowledged the frustrations. “This is a massive operation with many moving parts,” it noted.

Relief aid is offloaded from a Royal Caribbean ship in Freeport, on 11 September.
Relief aid is offloaded from a Royal Caribbean ship in Freeport, on 11 September. Photograph: Jose Jimenez/Getty Images
Categories: Global Emergency News