The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Bahamas: Desperate situation

Hurricanes leave one-third of residents unemployed and hungry

Three weeks after Hurricane Frances struck the Bahamas, massive unemployment and food shortages created what Carnard Bethell calls a "desperate" situation. Bethell is undersecretary to the prime minister and administrative head of the government in the northern Bahamas.

"We are appealing to any international source to assist us in this desperate situation," he said. "One-third of the population needs assistance."

Bethell said 5,000 of the 75,000 people in Grand Bahama are currently unemployed. More than half of the job losses come from two major hotels, one of which doesn't plan to reopen until February. "That's a long time to be without a job," he said. The Queen's Cove was buried under 6 feet of water and the storm also wiped out housing for 20,000 people in the West End.

Unlike government disaster response in the United States, the National Emergency Management Agency doesn't provide financial assistance to hurricane victims--no unemployment compensation, no reimbursement for temporary housing, no loans for rebuilding. People were reportedly becoming so desperate that near riots broke out when supplies arrived at a location.

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Embracing diversity