Stamford's Americares Pitching In On Bahamian Hurricane Relief | Connecticut Public Radio

Stamford's Americares Pitching In On Bahamian Hurricane Relief

Sep 5, 2019

A Connecticut nonprofit has deployed help to those impacted by Hurricane Dorian.

Stamford-based Americares now has a team on the ground in the Bahamas just after the Category 5 hurricane leveled the two northernmost Bahamian islands.

“Americares has two staff on the ground that are based in Nassau,” said Kate Dischino, Americares’ vice president of emergency programs. “These are emergency experts that are working to coordinate and assess health needs with local health partners, with government officials, and with other nonprofit organizations.”

The primary function of Americares during disaster recovery is to distribute medicine and medical supplies to people in need.

Dischino said that access to the Grand Bahama and Abacos islands, where much of Dorian’s greatest impact occurred, is “still difficult.”

“We’re working with a lot of different partners on a lot of different options ranging from air transportation to boat transportation and willing to be creative as we have been in the past,” Dischino said. “I think pretty soon, you’ll see aid coming in.”

Sambhavi Cheemalapati, Americares' associate director of emergency response spoke to Connecticut Public Radio from Nassau, where she arrived from Florida on Wednesday.

"There's a number of challenges with being able to get to these islands and assess the needs," she said. "The priority for the government continues to be search and rescue. The space for humanitarian organizations to mobilize is somewhat limited at this time."

Cheemalapati said when people's basic needs for food, water and shelter have been met, medical professionals can start to address injuries and stopping the spread of communicable diseases.

"But then it's really critical to move on to addressing chronic diseases like diabetes or hypertension, to make sure that people who may not have access to their maintenance medications have adequate supplies," she said.

And with disaster also comes mental health challenges. "Americares really focuses on providing wraparound mental health and psycho-social support services," said Cheemalapati. "First responders, people in affected communities, even if they're largely fine in terms of their health needs, they've all faced significant trauma."

Representatives from Americares expect be in the Bahamas for an indefinite period as the recovery effort continues.