When we see devastation like what has hit the Bahamas as a result of Hurricane Dorian, our first reaction is to help by heading to the store to buy supplies for those who are suffering. However, officials warn consumers this can be the worst thing because without substantial planning on the ground, things can go bad— literally— as was the case in the past.
Following Hurricane Maria in 2017, 20,000 donated pallets of bottled water were left on an airstrip in Ceiba, Puerto Rico. A year later, a photo surfaced on CBS News, shocking whose made donations. The water bottles were still sitting, undistributed, on the airstrip and had become too contaminated for consumption.
Ten trailers of donated food, water and baby supplies at an elections office in San Juan became infested by rats. The donated goods are supposed to be distributed by the National Guard. The Guard admitted that goods sat for over a year while an additional 1,427 victims died as a result of the storm because they couldn’t get medicine, water, food and other supplies.
The Department of Homeland Security admitted that hundreds of refrigerated shipping containers full of supplies sat because of they physically couldn’t get to the people who needed it. There was a similar occurrence following the devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 in Haiti in 2010.
After these lessons, community organizers are attempting to be more organized this time and coordinate their efforts with those who have access to survivors. They are asking consumers to hold off on buying things, for now, while preparations are being made on how to get those supplies to the people who need them. If you are unsure, it is best to ask. Call your local community service organizations who are doing outreach, many will advertise when they are ready to begin taking those donations.
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About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, political analyst and literary agent. She appears weekly for “Staggers’ State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, AfroPunk, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!