WHO chief urges world to ‘rally round’ hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Getty Images/ AFP)

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) — The top United Nations health official has called for the world to rally around The Bahamas as the country continues to emerge from the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian one month ago.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), made the appeal on Tuesday following a visit to the Bahamas.

“It breaks my heart to see the devastation to communities and families who have lost friends and loved ones as well as their homes, possessions and access to crucial services,” he said.

“Hurricane Dorian is another urgent reminder that we must address the drivers of climate change and invest more in resilient communities,” he added. “The longer we wait, the more people will suffer. We need to keep the world and people safe.”

Hurricane Dorian struck on September 1, hitting the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Overall, the UN said 75,000 people have been affected, with around 1,500 still living in shelters.

Fifty-six people were killed in the storm and about 600 are still missing.

The WHO chief’s visit included stops in the two affected islands, where most households and other infrastructure were completely destroyed.

The hurricane dealt a substantial blow to the health sector, destroying five clinics across both islands, and interrupting electrical and water supplies, the UN said.

It said the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), which serves as WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas, is the only UN agency with a physical presence in The Bahamas.

PAHO-WHO has deployed 20 staff there and have coordinated the mobilisation of five International Emergency Medical Teams for the response.

On Friday, The Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly Debate that Hurricane Dorian, one of the most destructive Atlantic storms ever recorded, “is a generational tragedy”.

Minnis urged his fellow world leaders to treat the climate crisis as the greatest challenge to the planet.

“I add my urgent plea to the cries and voices of many other leaders and citizens of the global commons, urging the nations of the world here assembled to treat the global climate emergency as the greatest challenge facing humanity,” he said.

“It is a challenge that, if not treated with the greatest urgency, will continue to ravage small island states, such as The Bahamas, and will also have devastating impact on more developed states,” he said.