THOUSANDS of people across the Bahamas whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Dorian are to receive much-needed help thanks to a grant to UNICEF from Hampshire and Isle of Wight freemasons.

The grant will go towards providing important life-saving supplies, including water, sanitation and hygiene equipment, water purification tablets, water tanks and containers.

An estimated 68,000 people - including over 18,000 children and adolescents - have been affected by Hurricane Dorian. Many need urgent humanitarian assistance, including access to safe water and sanitation. Tragically, the death toll has reached 50, but the number of casualties and lives lost could be significantly higher as search and rescue operations continue.

UNICEF and partners are bringing relief for children and families impacted by the storm, especially the most vulnerable. Lifesaving supplies and services are being provided, including access to safe drinking water and sanitation, nutrition, psychosocial support and non-formal education activities. UNICEF is currently supporting the delivery of fresh water to 15,000 survivors.

The Category-5 Hurricane Dorian hit Abaco and Grand Bahama islands at the start of September, leaving behind a path of destruction unprecedented in the Caribbean country. In and around Marsh Harbour, schools and hospitals have been flattened; houses and roads have collapsed; and cars and boats were left hanging in trees. Widespread flooding has compromised water and sanitation systems in Abaco and areas of Grand Bahama, and the lack of safe water and adequate sanitation puts children and families at risk of contracting waterborne diseases.

The grant from Hampshire and Isle of Wight freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and is supported by freemasons, their families and friends, across England and Wales.

Claire Fox, chief operating officer of UNICEF UK, said: “We’re very grateful to the freemasons for supporting our disaster response in the Bahamas.

"This generous grant will enable UNICEF to provide thousands of children and families with the life-saving assistance and supplies they need.”

Mike Wilks from Hampshire and Isle of Wight freemasons, said: “Hurricane Dorian has devastated the lives of tens of thousands of people right across the Bahamas. I’m very pleased that the freemasons were able to move so quickly and provide funds for UNICEF’s vital work at the heart of the disaster zone.”