16 June 2014
One month after flooding devastated communities across the Balkans, people are trying to return to their normal lives.
Flood waters are receding and the attention has shifted from emergency relief to recovery.
However, thousands remain in evacuation shelters while the disaster will have a severe economic impact on families and the economies of affected countries – damages are estimated to run into billions of Euros.
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The Red Cross is helping with the recovery process and is also supporting communities to become more resilient to future disasters.
Help from neighbours
More than two and a half million people across Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were affected by the worst flooding in 120 years.
Three months of rain fell in three days and caused rivers to burst their banks, flooding homes, schools and businesses.
Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated with many rescued from rooftops by helicopter or boat.
In the immediate aftermath, Lea Kujudnzic, head of international affairs for the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina, began receiving offers of help from many Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in neighbouring countries.
“We’re very thankful and grateful that our neighbours have shown such big hearts in this disaster especially because we know that many are not in good economic situations,” said Kujudnzic.
According to Serbian Red Cross volunteer Milan Mirkovic, the help has been much needed.
“In this disaster, one of the best things that happened was the outpouring of solidarity,” he said.
“We had to open more than 40 centres in Belgrade for people being evacuated from Obrenovac and other places, and we never lacked food or dry clothes or volunteers.”
Health risks and landmines
The water has receded in most places and people have started to return home. Red Cross workers are helping with the disinfection of homes and businesses to avoid the spread of disease from stagnant water.
To date, there have been no major health concerns due to the floods. However, there are still risks associated with the lack of drinkable water and sewerage systems that need rebuilding.
There are also concerns over landmines, remnants from the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1990s.
Flood waters and landslides have dislodged landmines and washed away warning signs, posing a risk to communities and aid workers.
The flooding has left homes in ruins and it has also severely affected people’s livelihoods. Many people have lost their livestock or businesses.
The national Red Cross societies of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina supported by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), are working to help those most affected in the coming months. Supporting people to recover their livelihoods will be one of the main focus areas.
A representative from the British Red Cross has arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina to help with plans for cash grants so people can rebuild their lives
Stephen Cox, British Red Cross disaster response support officer, said cash transfer programmes allow more flexibility for people, but the local economy needs to be able to support this.
“The main purpose of the cash transfer programme is to enable people to buy the goods they need in local markets,” Stephen said.
“Part of what our delegate will be doing is assessing the local economy. For example, checking if markets are well stocked, whether manufacturers are able to deliver goods, whether the cost of essential items is inflated, or simply whether or not people have access to markets.
“By giving people cash, they can fend for themselves and buy exactly what they need most, and this also helps the local economy.”