September 6, 2019 / 5:30 PM / 16 days ago

Caribbean Development Bank plans to help tackle trauma of Bahamas storm

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) plans to throw its weight behind mental health support for those hit by devastating Hurricane Dorian, besides offering more traditional financial assistance.

The Barbados-based bank, which helps Caribbean nations finance social and economic programs, said this week it would provide almost $1 million in relief funds to the Bahamas, still reeling from the worst storm to hit the archipelago.

“Mental health is a new area for (the bank) and it has come out from close work with other countries in the region that have experienced natural disasters,” its president William Warren Smith told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday in a phone interview.

Hurricane Dorian wiped out entire neighbourhoods in northern Grand Bahama island and in the Abaco Islands, at the northern end of the chain, as it crawled over the nation this week.

Survivors reported seeing children swept away by the wind gusts.

The United Nations has estimated that 70,000 people are in immediate need of food, water and shelter.

While deaths from Dorian stood at 30 on Thursday, the final toll is expected to be much higher, Bahamas officials said.

“The ferociousness of these events has a major impact on people, not only on their day-to-day life but also their psychological conditions,” Smith said on Friday.

Accelerating extreme weather linked to climate change is bringing worsening mental health threats.

The trauma that accompanies displacement and loss can have consequences as severe as economic damage, health officials say.

The Caribbean Development Bank said it would support mental health and counseling assistance for those affected by Dorian as part of a broader joint project with the Pan American Health Organization.

The $470,000 initiative to better deal with mental health threats linked to disasters was launched in 2018.

Smith added that the bank would soon send a technical team to work with Bahamas government officials on plans to rebuild battered infrastructure.

The CDB has arranged a $200,000 emergency relief grant to the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency for humanitarian assistance, as well as allocating a $750,000 loan to assist with the cleanup and short-term recovery.

Reporting by Elena Berton; @ElenaBerton; Editing by Laurie Goering and Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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