Croatian Red Cross responding to the worst natural disaster in living memory

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In mid-May, heavy rainfall led to severe flooding across north-eastern Croatia, as well as parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the three countries. Over just three days, parts of Croatia received what is normally three months of rainfall. Rivers quickly rose to torrential levels, within 24 hours as much as 3.5 meters in some places. In Croatia, an estimated 15,000 people were evacuated. Throughout the sixty days since the onset of this disaster, Croatian Red Cross teams have been working to help those in greatest need.

"Right from the start, we knew we would need to provide help over months," said Tihana Đumić, a member of Croatian Red Cross' volunteer psychosocial intervention teams. “This is Croatia’s worst natural disaster in living memory.”

Over 700 trained volunteers and hundreds of spontaneous volunteers, donated over 112,000 hours of work in the past two months. Together with the Croatian army, they have provided over 95,000 hot meals, and 150,000 ready-to-eat meals, feeding those affected by the floods. Dehumidifiers have been made available from the Red Cross to enable families to dry out their houses, once it is cleared as safe to do so by the authorities. Already, almost 100 family homes have been dried out together with public schools and buildings and a mosque in Gunja, while over 150 households more are currently being dried with 320 dehumidifiers and fans.

With many years of experience responding to the psychosocial impact of emergencies, Croatian Red Cross teams of specialized volunteers were deployed to the affected regions in the aftermath of the disaster. The worst is nevertheless yet to come as the full psychological impact will only begin to show once evacuated families return to their homes. To support the psychological well-being of the persons affected, the Croatian Red Cross also provided tracing service for families unable to reach their loved ones to reconnect.

Croatian Red Cross has received overwhelming support from the public for their work. Thousands have donated clothes, food, and other relief items, and many more have made cash donations, amounting to 9.8 million Swiss francs. These funds are being transferred directly to the most affected people to help them restart their lives. Each person will receive 4,000 kuna (approx. 640 Swiss francs). Croatian Red Cross has experience in providing cash grants and this is the most effective, efficient and dignified way to support families return to their normal lives.

"All the donated funds will be shared among the affected people, allowing them to begin to replace home items that have been lost," said Robert Markt, Executive President of Croatian Red Cross.
In the coming weeks, the second phase of cash transfers will begin. The road to recovery will be a long one for those whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by the floods, but the Croatian Red Cross will continue to help them for as long as is needed.

By Stephen Ryan, emergency communication delegate