Bosnia and Herzegovina

Starting from scratch after epic floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Tools and equipment help families return home

“We are still afraid of new floods, even when there is only a light rain. That fear is not rational, but it’s here, especially for the children.”

April 2015—Where do you start when you’ve lost everything you own? What should you replace first—and how?

These are choices thousands of families had to make in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in May 2014 after four days of continuous rain caused the biggest floods in 120 years and over 2,000 landslides. More than half a million people were forced to flee their homes and communities, including 140,000 children. When floodwaters receded, thousands of homes and livelihoods had been destroyed.

“Everything was under water for 20 days. We couldn’t come close to the house. Everything was destroyed, we were not able to save anything,” said Ivo Mikic from Brcko district, who has two daughters and a son. The family made their living from agriculture and livestock farming, but their income was severely reduced when their 62 pigs drowned in the floodwaters that rose 10 feet high.

Through its partner Save the Children, USAID helped families in Brcko district and Orasje and Samac municipalities get back on their feet. Within weeks of the disaster, USAID delivered water pumps, dehumidifiers and water disinfection kits to more than 1,200 households so they could begin cleanup and return to their homes. The most vulnerable families—large or poor households, or those with disabled family members—received vouchers to help them replace some nonfood items ruined by the floods and the sludge they left behind.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do anything without the dehumidifier. As soon as we had electricity again, we used it,” said Ljiljana Markovic, a single mother from Orasje municipality.

Radmila Borga and her family are internally displaced, with two boys and a girl. She and her husband are both unemployed, and her husband is disabled. Floodwaters more than 6 feet high heavily damaged their house.

“[The vouchers] meant a lot to us, to be able to buy something when we had nothing,” said Borga.

“We used the voucher to purchase tools. We needed a drill to continue work on repairing the house,” said Stana Petrovic of Vucilovac, who lives with her in-laws, husband, three teenage daughters and a 6-year-old.

The project, an integral part of USAID’s $14.7 million Flood Recovery Initiative, helped over 19,000 people, including more than 7,200 children, regain their footing. The water and sludge are gone and reconstruction has begun, but the memories will take longer to subside.

“We are still afraid of new floods, even when there is only a light rain,” says Bozo Ninkovic, who lives in Samac with his wife, son and daughters, one of whom has Down syndrome. “That fear is not rational, but it’s here, especially for the children.”