A year ago, Hurricane Dorian hit, devastating the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. One of the largest Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes on record, its 185 mph sustained winds left more than 70,000 people homeless.
In any disaster response, the most common critical needs are food, shelter, and safe water. Without clean, safe water, operations cannot progress. Safe water is needed for everything, from drinking water to use in healthcare. After Dorian, water sources were not safe due to saltwater and other contaminates affecting the municipal water supply during temporary flooding from storm surge.
Water Mission’s Hurricane Dorian disaster response and engineering teams were on the ground within hours after the storm subsided, focused on meeting immediate needs and assessing challenges. Our teams worked to stabilize water sources utilizing reverse osmosis, a specialized water purification process that filters out contaminants and makes water safe to drink.
After Hurricane Dorian, the damage was so extensive that the priority of responding to immediate safe water needs gradually shifted to evaluating sustainable long-term solutions to strengthen critical water systems.
Water Mission’s Legacy of Disaster Response
Disaster response is a highly specialized capability at the core of Water Mission’s global engineering and safe water services. Almost 20 years ago, Water Mission’s founders responded to a request for help from Honduras requesting safe water in the midst of Hurricane Mitch. Since this time, the ministry has responded to global disasters spanning four continents. Most recently, our global response to COVID-19 has provided almost 7,000 hand washing stations in 10 countries around the world. These hand washing stations are in health facilities, schools, prisons, and more, resulting in more than 675,000 people having access to safe water, soap, and hygiene resources for preventive hand washing.
Responding and rebuilding after a disaster requires a mix of proven best-in-class equipment and collaborative partnerships with community and government leaders, foundations, other NGOs, corporations, volunteers and, other funders. Contributions of time, skills, services, materials, and financial resources fuel a shared response. Water Mission assigns trained and qualified volunteers matching skills with needs on the ground and at our offices. Water Mission volunteers play so many important roles leading up to and during a disaster. From joining our disaster response team staff on the ground, to helping to pre-stage equipment so it is ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, our volunteers are appreciated and valued.
Strengthening Municipal Water Systems and Schools in Abaco Islands
Over the last several months, the rebuilding effort has expanded into solidifying long-term sustainable solutions. One of these is leveraging solar technology to help power municipal water systems for the Marsh Harbour community in the Abacos. A large field of solar panels is in the process of being integrated with the local power grid, providing reliable and efficient solar power to run local water systems. The ambitious solar project led by Water Mission was funded by grants from UNICEF and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. This was one of two projects designed to strengthen the local water systems and area schools to be more resilient in the face of future storms.
Designed in coordination with local authorities such as Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) and the Ministry of Education, innovative solar technology integrates with the local power grid, providing consistent energy output to 22 of 25 municipal water wells. The power generated from the solar array will increase operational water production pump efficiency at Marsh Harbour’s 25 wells by up to 33%. This “build back better” approach is ongoing throughout the Bahamas as multiple partners continue to rebuild critical infrastructure. Additional safe water projects in the region include rain catchment with treatment systems in six area schools providing reliable safe water for children—just in time as they head back to school. Despite these benefits, there is still much work to do across the Bahamas. Water Mission continues to partner with residents, empowering them to help improve their communities’ long–term safe water solutions.
Increasing Need for Disaster Response
Thank you to all who’ve come along side us, enabling us to continue to bolster our capabilities to rapidly respond to disasters with safe water, sanitation, and hygiene solutions where they are needed most. Natural disasters such as hurricanes continue to occur at increased rates led by the active start to this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. Water Mission’s comprehensive and efficient Disaster Response Program remains prepared to respond to global emergencies. We invite you to join us in being the hands and feet of Christ as critical needs arise around the world.