From CNA, this brief article: How the Bahamas Can Rebuild Quickly — Learning from Puerto Rico; by Delilah Barton.
Reading the news reports and seeing the images of the destruction in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian, I am reminded of our work in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following Hurricane Maria. When an island community faces such catastrophic damage, efforts to help and rebuild are difficult and slow. The first impulse is to send immediate aid in the form of food, water and other lifesaving commodities. In the initial days that is essential, but what we have learned in Puerto Rico is that when the damage is on a catastrophic scale — as is now the case in the Bahamas — no government can meet the needs of an entire island’s population. The private sector is key to recovery.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, the devastation in Puerto Rico was shocking and pleas for help were ubiquitous in news coverage. As a result, the U.S. government launched the largest food mission in U.S. history. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was able to provide more than 30 million meals to the Puerto Rican government during the first 6 months to an island of 3.4 million people. Despite the massive mission, the relief effort amounted to only nine meals per person over six months.
Yet at the same time, the island’s grocers were open within days of landfall and even reported the largest volume of food sales since 2009. In fact, within four weeks of landfall, over 90 percent of residents were fulfilling fundamental needs through the capacity of preexisting private sector supply chains or ad-hoc replacements. Not realizing that, FEMA continued to focus on delivering food and water, inadvertently blocking the efforts of the private sector to recover quickly by taking up limited trucking resources, vessel capacity and dock space at the ports needed for distribution.