Administrator Green's Press Briefing on Humanitarian Aid to The Bahamas

Remarks

For Immediate Release

Friday, September 13, 2019
Office of Press Relations

 
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC
September 12, 2019

MS ORTAGUS: Hello. We’re going to start the briefing off today with USAID Administrator Mark Green. He has an announcement for all of you, and then we’ll take a couple questions when he’s done, and then I’ll go into the regular briefing. Go ahead.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Great, thank you. Thanks, Morgan. Thanks, everyone. As you may know, earlier this week I traveled to the Bahamas, which is recovering from Hurricane Dorian, the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record. While parts of the islands were only modestly impacted, the islands that took the main brunt of the storm – namely Abaco and Grand Bahama – were severely damaged. In some cases, that damage is absolute.

First and foremost, on behalf of the administration and the American people, I want to extend sincere condolences to the people of the Bahamas. But the U.S. is mobilizing, as it always does. The outpouring of compassion from so many people and so many places I think is truly inspiring to all of us.

On the government side, as the world’s single-largest humanitarian donor, the United States Government has responded to the request for assistance from the Bahamian Government and has been providing life-saving assistance to address acute humanitarian needs. On Sunday, I myself visited Abaco and met with the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team – or DART, as we call it – which is leading our government’s humanitarian response in the Bahamas. There are now more than 100 members of that DART on the ground in the Bahamas. This team on the ground is providing urgently needed aid, including basic food, shelter, and health support. USAID is working across the interagency, including with Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Coast Guard for logistical support and to augment search-and-rescue operations.

To date, more than 47 metric tons of USAID supplies have arrived from our warehouse in Miami. In addition, the Bahama’s Red Cross, a USAID partner, is distributing USAID-funded relief items, including hygiene kits and portable stoves to people affected by the hurricane. And earlier this week, 5,000 USAID shelter kits arrived in the Bahamas from Haiti, where they had been prepositioned. To be clear, this response in the Bahamas does not affect ongoing response efforts in the United States for U.S. residents impacted by the storm.

Following my visit to Abaco, I traveled to the capital, Nassau, where I met with Prime Minister Minnis and reiterated the U.S. support for the Bahamas. We also discussed our partnership with the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency and our efforts to fully leverage the capabilities of all response partners to deliver emergency supplies and address acute humanitarian needs of the Bahamian people. With the tireless support of the U.S. embassy, our efforts are part of a broader international response, including 15 other countries, including Caribbean partners so that the Bahamian Government can provide that life-saving and life-sustaining care to their people.

In my meeting, I was very impressed with the prime minister and his pledge to collaborate with our team on the ground. He made it very clear that if we come across any barriers, any logjams, any red tape, he stands ready to clear the way. I also introduced to the prime minister USAID’s most senior humanitarian response official for the Latin American and Caribbean region, Tim Callahan. I have asked Tim to serve as the leader of the USAID response on the ground. In fact, shortly before coming here, I received a telephone update from Tim.

As part of our continuing response, today I am announcing nearly $4 million in new humanitarian assistance. This additional funding will support emergency shelter, health, water, sanitation, and hygiene, and psychosocial support for people who have been impacted by the hurricane. We’ll also provide critical logistics and emergency telecommunications to support response operations. This announcement brings the total U.S. Government funding for this response to more than $10 million to date.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m truly humbled by the surge in generosity of Americans who are trying to help with relief efforts in the Bahamas. This is especially evident in the state of Florida. On my way to the Bahamas last week, I traveled to Miami and met with Miami-Dade County Mayor Gimenez and City of Miami Mayor Suarez, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, as well as congressional staff from nearly the entire Florida delegation. I also spoke with Governor DeSantis yesterday.

I thanked all of these leaders for their assistance and leadership as they seek to help their neighbors in need. I made clear that USAID will coordinate with those communities that are seeking to help.

This is obviously a very difficult time for the people of the Bahamas and the Government of the Bahamas. The journey ahead is a long one, but the United States will stand proudly with our neighbors.

For the latest updates on the response, as well as more information on how the public can help during this crisis, I would encourage all of you to go to our website, usaid.gov/dorian, and that can show different ways that people can help out. It also gives our latest updates.

So thank you for this opportunity, Morgan, and I’m ready to address questions.

MS ORTAGUS: Matt.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, sir. I’m wondering if you or USAID as an agency have or had any position on giving TPS status to people from the Bahamas. And if not, why not? And if so, what do you make of the decision not to do so?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So for that I would defer to – I guess to Morgan. That’s not something that USAID is involved with.

QUESTION: No, but you might have an opinion one way or the other.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Again, I would defer to the State Department.

QUESTION: All right. Well, then let me phrase it differently. Do you think that the denial of TPS status in any way reflects on what you said was this tremendous outpouring of American response to the victims of the hurricane?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So USAID is the operational part of our presence there, and so that’s what our focus is, and how we deliver relief and coordinate with our partners, first off in the Bahamian Government but also our international donor partners, and that’s really where I’d confine my remarks.

MS ORTAGUS: Christina.

QUESTION: Thanks. Christina with CBS. You said you visited Abaco. Is it – what is your assessment of the situation there? Would you say it’s uninhabitable at the moment? And a little bit to Matt’s question, is – if that’s the case, is the U.S. taking any additional measures to help evacuees get out of what seems like an unsafe area? And then if you could update us on the status of the USAR teams. Are they still operating? Are they done? Are they – are more going to go in? Just let us know what’s going on with the search and rescue.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So let me – I’ll answer the last part of that first. The way that we’re responding – first off, we mobilized our DART within 24 hours, and we had, in fact, already prepositioned some personnel and relief supplies. We responded immediately.

The first and most important thing we do is assess the needs and make sure that as we provide assistance and as we coordinate with other donors that we are responding to actual needs and how we can deliver that assistance most effectively to where it’s most needed, so there’s no duplication and that we don’t see problems of bureaucracy.

On the first part, my personal assessment, and I had a chance to visit Mozambique not so long after the cyclones that hit there – what was striking about the storm, this storm, Dorian, particularly on Abaco, is how it was sort of combined fury and devastation, if you will. As you fly over the Bahamas, there are parts of the Bahamas that are only modestly impacted. But the areas where it did hit, in some cases the devastation is absolute. I was quoted as saying it was like a nuclear bomb was dropped. I stand by that.

You look at some places and you see things completely wiped out and devastated, and there’s a lot of hard work that lies ahead. So we’re working closely with the government’s NEMA, their National Emergency Management Agency, to help prioritize what we do, and we’re getting wonderful support, as always, from our brothers and sisters at DOD, from the Northern Command, obviously also the Coast Guard, and that’s helping us in the efforts.

In terms of specifics, I’d refer you to our website. One of the things that’s very clear is the situation changes rapidly, and so I want to make sure we always get you the most accurate information. I pledge to you 100 percent transparency, and that’s the best way to get the latest information.

QUESTION: Thank you. And can you say if you’re stepping up anything to help people evacuate? Any – any --

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, what I can tell you, one of the issues that we are hearing about, or one of the items to be addressed, is as people have – some people have evacuated from Abaco, they have moved to other parts of the Bahamas, and that’s obviously particularly relevant to us, as we make sure that those relief supplies get to where they’re most needed and that those who have moved get shelter, get support, those things that are necessary. So it does create additional challenges, and that’s part of the work that we’re doing.

MS ORTAGUS: Anything final for him? Go ahead.

QUESTION: You mentioned that USAID is coordinating with international partners. I was wondering if you could explain a little bit more about that, and specially looking a little bit into the – the medium or longer term. There’s been some reporting, for example, that China has an interest in – eventually in the reconstruction. Is that something that the U.S. would embrace, some role of countries that may not have always the best of relations with the United States? How do you see that going forward?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So the way that we approach humanitarian crises like this is at the request of the Government of the Bahamas, which obviously we’ve received that request, and we support their relief efforts. We work closely with their national emergency management agency, and that’s our focus. Our focus is entirely humanitarian and making sure that we do everything we can to provide relief and help them in their recovery.

To be clear, there’s a long road ahead. I think it is very clear that the U.S. – both private sector, charitable, for-profit, and the public sector – stands with the people of the Bahamas, and we’re there to help out. We will be for some time.

Last updated: September 14, 2019

Share This Page