Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Dorian struck, then lingered over the Bahamas with Category 5 winds and torrential rain, about 50 deaths have been officially recorded. Worse, about 1,300 people are now listed as missing.
Earlier in the week, that figure was placed at 2,500, but cross-checking against lists of those who evacuated or are staying in shelters significantly dropped the number of missing by Thursday morning.
While the Bahamian government has not released an official loss figure, a preliminary report, according to the Associated Press, estimates some $7 billion in damage, much of it concentrated in the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama and their tens of thousands of residents.
Along with the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian also left damage from winds and flooding in the Southeastern U.S., including at least four storm-related deaths in Florida and North Carolina.
Further adding to the humanitarian crisis is the apparent decision by the Trump administration not to offer the hurricane’s refugees “temporary protected status,” permission to come to the United States for a period of 18 months, with the possibility of extensions, when home countries are deemed unsafe because of natural disasters or political turmoil. The Obama administration, for example, gave nearly 60,000 residents of Haiti permission to come to the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake there.
Some who were provided that status over the years have returned to their homes, but currently, about 300,000 are in the U.S. under the program, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. In the past year, the Trump administration had sought to deny extensions of the status for thousands from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Sudan and Syria. A court injunction has delayed that effort, but similar protection for Dorian’s victims is now doubtful.
Leaving the advantages and disadvantages of the program aside, the Trump administration’s decision will only increase the need for assistance in the Bahamas as recovery and relief efforts build during the coming weeks and months. Those efforts are largely dependent on charitable organizations that themselves rely on the donations of individuals, groups and businesses.
As we reach for credit cards and checkbooks, take a moment to make sure your donation does the greatest good and stays out of the hands of those who would take advantage of the misfortune of others and your generosity. As scammers continue to proliferate — making their come-ons in person and by phone and email — it’s best to contact reliable charities directly to ensure donations go where they are intended.
There is assistance available in choosing an organization worthy of your gift, including the Washington Secretary of State’s website on charities, www.sos.wa.gov/charities/; the Better Business Bureau at Give.org; and Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org/.
Charity Navigator, a nonprofit itself worthy of contributions, is the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities and nonprofit organizations, rating more than 8,000 groups on their accountability and financial practices, including how much of a charitable organization’s funding goes to its programs and how much to administration and fundraising costs.
A specific page on its website offers a list of organizations that it has rated as either three- or four-star in its vetting, which are carrying out relief efforts in the Bahamas, in the U.S. or in both. Among the highly rated charities on its list are Americares, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, American Red Cross and others. It also recommends donations to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund for ongoing relief and recovery needs for Dorian and other storms that could arise this year.
Individual Americans are generous when they see a need, donating $292 billion last year. The need is there now in the Bahamas and on the East Coast.