USAID Administrator Mark Green's Press Gaggle on U.S. Assistance to The Bahamas

Remarks

For Immediate Release

Monday, September 9, 2019
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

September 8, 2019
Marsh Harbor
Abaco, Bahamas

QUESTION: (Off-mike),

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: This is American compassion. We always stand with people, particularly our neighbors, when crisis strikes. This is who we are as Americans. They know it and we know it.

QUESTION: What do you say to those people who are from The Bahamas who are desperate right now? Losing just about everything. They've got to start over. What do you tell them? What's the message you send to them from America?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, first off, they're in our thoughts and prayers. That sounds trite, but it's true. Secondly, we're standing with them. So, obviously, supplies are arriving, we're helping out. We'll stand with them and their government in the long run. So, this is -- the people here are resilient. This is a wonderful country. Wonderful people. We'll help them.

QUESTION: What about the fear that hey, you know, it's relevant right now. It's been a week. It's relevant now. What about two weeks from now, three weeks from now, a year from now?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, that's the great challenge. So, what we're doing right now is the immediate. Got to help get electricity going. Try to help them get communications, water, sanitation, hygiene. They've got a big rebuilding effort ahead of them in the weeks and months that are ahead. And we need to help them. We want to help. They're our neighbors, our friends. So, yeah, stay tuned. There's a long way to go.

QUESTION: Anything that hits you, like, personally about just seeing this? About just maybe how fortunate we are that this storm didn't do what it did to America? And -- I don't know. Is there anything scrolling around your head right now?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Again, what I was struck by were the pockets that were absolutely destroyed. Lot of devastation. This storm was particularly cruel to the poor because a lot of the poor shelters were maybe not, you know, all that strong. Those are gone. They are nowhere to be found. Very cruel storm. Again, America stands with them and will continue to stand with them.

QUESTION: Some people might feel a little hopeless right now. Is their situation hopeless?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: No, it's not hopeless. Again, first off, the government of The Bahamas is leading the effort. We're standing with them, helping them. I can tell you from the American perspective that the White House cares. It's a whole-of-government response from DOD, the Coast Guard, EPA, all of us, State, USAID. We're standing with them. They're our neighbors and our friends.

QUESTION: Last quick question. Anything you would tell the people who are saying that your response is a little slow right now. It's not coming to us where we are.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: You know, I understand why people get frustrated, particularly in those early days. The important thing is to make sure we're doing this the right way. Again, the Government of The Bahamas leading, but also making sure we do an assessment to get what's needed, where needed, as needed.

QUESTION: What were your initial thoughts when you were flying over, seeing that devastation?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: What struck me is that large areas of the country that are largely untouched, and then pockets that are just devastated. Just blown up. So, like someone nuked them. And the suffering and destruction there is really something to behold. This was a particularly cruel storm because a lot of the former structures that were perhaps not that strong to begin with - they're gone. Those structures are absolutely wiped out. So, it is a particularly cruel storm. Lots of suffering, intense devastation. I'm proud of the fact that the American people are standing with the people of The Bahamas, that the U.S. Government is standing with the Government of The Bahamas to help them. To help them and (inaudible) and also begin an even more difficult road ahead of rebuilding and getting structures and getting systems up and running.

QUESTION: What has USAID already done? What are you going to be doing now as you saw it in the short term?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, so we have, within 24 hours of the storm, we deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team immediately to begin making sure that we're doing the proper assessments - what is precisely needed, where it's needed, as it's needed. So, that's the most important thing. It's immediate relief supplies. It's also working with our brothers and sisters in the Coast Guard, evacuations if necessary, but it's making sure we do this the right way. So, there's obviously a lot of devastation and suffering, and we're making sure we do this the right way.

QUESTION: And you have lots of experience doing this over the years. I read your bio. So, this is not just a short-term situation. This is going to be a long-term thing. What are some of the things USAID is going to help for the Bahamian people in the long-term?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, I think most importantly, we're working with the Government of The Bahamas. So, we have staff that are embedded with them to help build their capacity so that we not only help provide relief, we not only help provide rebuilding, but we also help to foster resilience so that we build their capacity. This is obviously a crisis storm-prone area. It's a vulnerable area, we know that, that's part of this part of the world. So, we're also going to help them rebuild their resilience.

QUESTION: (Off-mike).

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, so, first off, this is our Southern border. I mean, the Caribbean is our Southern border, our neighborhood. These are people with whom we share a history and we share culture, and we share values. Also, maybe it sounds corny, but we stand with people when disaster strikes. That's who we are as Americans. That's what American leadership means. That's what American values mean. One of the things that we'll see today are a number of NGOs, some faith-based, some secular, that have also mobilized with whom we're working from Mercy Corps to Samaritan's Purse. There's a lot of compassion and action here right now.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, you stood there for over an hour and a half at that window looking down at it. Was there one moment in particular (inaudible)?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Yeah, well, but it really was this -- and I heard this. I actually met yesterday with the mayor of Miami Dade, who's a former fire and rescue guy. And he had flown over. He said, "Here's what you're going to see," and he was right. So, it is clusters and communities -- it's almost like there was an attack directed upon them. So, you see communities where they're -- it's just blown up. It's just devastating. And then there are other areas, which you probably saw, where there was traffic. There were people moving about. So, that really struck me. And then secondly, in this last leg, you would see on some of the rocky alcoves and islands where you would see white spots. And what that was is where the intensity of the storm ripped the top layer right off. That's extraordinary. That's like a nuclear bomb.

Last updated: September 09, 2019

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