The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Extreme winter conditions - Emergency Plan of Action Final Report Operation n° MDRMK008

A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

In the afternoon of 5 January 2017, the western and northeastern parts of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were hit by a heavy snowstorm with temperatures decreasing to as low as -25 Celsius degrees. Many villages were cut off by high snowdrifts and blocked roads around Skopje, Bitola, Kriva Palanka, Debar, Makedonski Brod, Gostivar, Kumanovo, Kichevo, Struga Ohrid and Stip. Motor vehicles had difficulties moving on the icy roads while the movement of heavy vehicles was banned on the mountain passes of Gostivar, Kicevo and Kriva Palanka – Kustendil. Part of the settlements in Skopje (Aerodrom), Negotino and Kavadarci were left without water due to frozen or damaged pipes.

Three people were reported to have died in Skopje, Strumica and Pehcevo as a result of the cold and freezing temperatures. Based on the needs assessment conducted by the Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the local governments, the Crisis Management Centre and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, 555 families were found to have been particularly affected by the extreme weather conditions.

Summary of the current response

Overview of Host National Society

The HQ of the Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia immediately started coordinating with its local branches after those have alarmed about heavy snowfall and extremely low temperatures. Mobile teams visited the locations where registered homeless people would typically stay. They also advertised the Red Cross helpline through the media so that people could report homeless people on the streets being in immediate need or danger. A shelter was opened for homeless people operating 24/7 in coordination with the City Red Cross branch of Skopje.

The NS branches also immediately commenced the situation and need assessment jointly with the local authorities.
Following that, they carried out a broad range of activities from emergency evacuation to delivery of relief items and supplies. They obtained the crucial background information directly from the crisis management centres where local authorities submitted their requests for support for the most vulnerable groups of population. A total of 555 families (1,381 people) were assisted by the Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as part of this DREF operation. These included most vulnerable people such as homeless people, the elderly living alone, families with low income, with small children, with members with disabilities or in need of medical care.

In the past years, the Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has actively worked on strengthening its response capacities at national level and especially at local level in cooperation with local and national stakeholders with an emphasis on community resilience. It has conducted various simulation exercises in country. As a result, it has now fully trained teams for disaster response at the local level. The previous operations and numerous trainings at local and national levels have resulted in a rapid and efficient response by its staff and volunteers throughout this whole response.

Further details about the implemented strategy and operational achievements, challenges and lessons learnt per programming sector can be found below.

Coordination and communication

As key part of the crisis management system in country, the Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia took part, represented by its Secretary General at all relevant meetings together with the Ministries of Defence, Interior, Transport, Health and other partner institutions. At local level, the branch secretaries coordinated and communicated with the Crisis Management Centre, the Department of Social Policy and local governments in an ongoing manner. The NS’s Operative Centre was activated and gathered and analysed all information received from the branches.

At a meeting on 4 January of the Managing Committee for Crisis Management of the government, it was decided that the NS would undertake caring for homeless people around the country in cooperation the Social Welfare Centres (SWCs). The SWCs organized the accommodation and the NS provided humanitarian support to homeless people.

Overview of non-RCRC actors in country

The National Crisis Management Committee includes the Crisis Management Centre, the Protection and Rescue Directorate, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport and Communication, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defence, local governments and the Red Cross of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.