IOM Steps Up Response in the Bahamas After Hurricane Dorian Devastation

Date Publish: 
09/10/2019

Nassau – As search and rescue operations continue in Abaco and Grand Bahama, islands in the Bahamas devastated last week by Hurricane Dorian, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is moving quickly to mobilise resources to assist rehabilitation efforts. Yesterday (09/09), IOM started the distribution of 1,000 tarpaulin coats in Marsh Harbour – the largest urban centre in Abaco.  The tarps will be used as a temporary fix for roofs torn by the violent Category 5 storm.

In places like Marsh Harbour, the devastation is particularly startling. Communities such as The Mudd and Pigeon Pea, where 70 per cent of informal housing in Abaco existed, and where an overwhelming majority of Haitian migrants resided, has been decimated.

"The Mudd is gone," said IOM's Brian Kelly, who is now leading the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team in the area. “They [the Haitian migrants] are in a very tough situation, just as many of the Bahamians. A lot of people are facing very difficult circumstances and we're going to help out as much as we can."

On Sunday (08/09) IOM participated in an assessment mission to Abaco, along with representatives from UNICEF, UNDP and Mission of Hope. The team visited most of the emergency shelters on the island.

"According to official reports, approximately 76,000 people were affected by Dorian. Thousands of people have been evacuated from the affected areas; about 860 people are being housed in emergency shelters in Nassau.  The rest of the people remain in the affected areas," said Vynliz Dailey, the IOM officer in the assessment mission. "No electricity or running water is available, and parts of the affected communities, particularly in Abaco, are destroyed and are uninhabitable."

Jan-Willem Wegdam, IOM's emergency response coordinator, has met with the office of the Prime Minister and other government officials responsible for mass evacuation and emergency shelter, to coordinate the response to the affected population. 

"We are committed to using all resources made available to us to support the Government and people of Bahamas during this difficult time," declared Wegdam. "We have specialists and experts on the ground and on the way to ensure that we deliver the best possible service to those who need it the most in the shortest possible time. Even during the emergency phase, we are focused on medium- and long-term strategies that will contribute to the development of the islands."

Wegdam stated that IOM is preparing to roll out its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) and support the coordination of emergency shelters and household repair solutions, among other responses. To this end, experts on Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM), Migrants in Countries in Crises (MICIC) and DTM will be deployed this week to strengthen the team on the ground and to begin project implementation.

For more information please contact Jorge Gallo at the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, Tel: +506 7203 6536, Email: jgallo@iom.int

Tags: 
hurricane dorian, dorian, bahamas, emergency, disaster

IOM organizes double return flight between Belize and El Salvador

Date Publish: 
06 / 07 / 2020

Belize – A plane chartered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) completed last Friday a round-trip humanitarian flight, carrying 32 Salvadoran nationals from Belize to El Salvador and bringing home 13 Belizeans on the return trip. 

"This is the first large group movement of its kind for stranded migrants in Belize through IOM Assisted Voluntary Return Program," said Diana Locke, IOM's Head of Office in Belize. “This represents a big step in the right direction for the dignified return of migrants in the region.” 

Before the repatriation, IOM staff in both countries provided humanitarian assistance to the returning migrants, including medical and psychosocial support, lodging, food, hygiene kits, and protective gear (masks, face shields, and hand sanitizer). Interviews were conducted remotely, and operations followed the security protocols established by the governments of El Salvador and Belize. IOM also provided pre-departure medical screenings to confirm beneficiaries were in good conditions to travel and to discard COVID-19 related symptoms. Upon arrival in CoO, authorities implemented health protocols at airports and with the support of IOM, facilitated a 14-day quarantine at government-run centers. 

Both groups had been waiting in Belize and Salvador for almost four months due to COVID-19 related border and airport closures. The Salvadoran group included 20 men, 11 women, and one girl. The Belizean group included eight women and five men. 

"There are currently limited routes for migrants to return home. Through the support of and close coordination with government authorities, partners, and IOM teams, we have been able to ensure Salvadorans and Belizeans can reach their countries of origin in a safe and orderly manner," said Malina Gaianu, Project Specialist with IOM Belize. 

IOM supported the Government of Belize and El Salvador in their efforts to return these stranded migrants. These efforts were carefully coordinated with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both countries and its embassies, ministries of National Security and Health.  

Among the women returning to Belize was Marta, who was looking forward to reuniting with her elderly mother. Marta went through a health screening.  

"My brothers live here in El Salvador,” she explained “And because they are older people, they have health problems. That is why, from time to time, I come to visit them."  

But with travel restrictions in both countries, such travel became nearly impossible. Marta received news that her mother, 96, had suffered an accident, leaving her gravely injured.  She needed IOM’s help to get home.   

"In coordination with the authorities of El Salvador and Belize, we have managed to provide comprehensive assistance to these people who were eager to return to their countries of residence," added Jorge Peraza, IOM Chief of Mission for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. "We are especially pleased that this entire process followed the strictest health recommendations." 

Assistance for the return of stranded migrants is part of the Assisted Voluntary Return Programme, an IOM humanitarian project that aims to provide a safe and dignified return for migrants who wish to return voluntarily to their countries of origin but do not have the means to do so. The program is funded by the United States Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). 

For further information, please contact Jorge Gallo, IOM Regional Office Costa Rica. Tel.: + 506 2212-5300; M. +506 7203-6536.  Email: jgallo@iom.int