Hungary + 2 more

Hungary, Romania, Ukraine: Floods Final Report (Appeal No. 13/01)

Originally published


This Final Report focuses solely on the operations in Hungary and Romania. A separate report was issued for the Ukraine component of the appeal on 26 February, 2002.
This Final Report is intended for reporting on emergency appeals

The Federation’s mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. It is the world’s largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in 178 countries. For more information:

Appeal No. 13/01; Launched on: 9 March 2001 for 2 months for CHF 1,574,048 to assist 53,000 beneficiaries. Budget revised in Situation Report no.1, increased to CHF 2,185,764 and the time frame increased to 30 September 2002 (due to the late payment of pledges and transfer funds)
Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) Allocated: CHF 100,000 (CHF 50,000 to each country)
Period covered: 9 March 2001 to 31 September 2002


Appeal coverage: 81.4% (This high coverage primarily reflects the timely and effective response to the Ukraine component of the Appeal)
Related Appeals: 13/01 Hungary, Romania, Ukraine Floods. From the CHF 2,185,764, Hungary received CHF 165,752.47 (in cash) and CHF 215.859 (in kind); Romania received CHF 199.525 (in cash). Based on this limited funding, Romania and Hungary had to prioritize their activities. Both concentrated on relief distribution to the most affected regions and people.

Map of the affected areas


In March 2001 the river Tisza and its tributaries rose to record levels. This affected wide areas of north-east Hungary, Romania and Ukraine. Large areas of farmland and communities were overwhelmed, with dikes breaking. This is a relatively deprived and underdeveloped region, so this disaster exposed people already used to degrees of hardship to even harsher challenges.

In Hungary, more than 25,000 people were directly affected and twenty villages had to be evacuated, with more than 2000 houses suffering serious damage and needing to be completely rebuilt. In Romania after the initial flooding, life quickly returned to normal, with Romanian Red Cross and Federation support. The Ukrainian Red Cross also received plaudits for the speed and efficiency with which it met the crisis. Note that, as was mentioned in Programme Update 3, a separate Update and Final Report for Ukraine is available at


Immediately after the disaster hit, a needs assessment was carried out by the local Protection Committee with the participation of a representative from the Hungarian Red Cross. This lead to a Hungarian National Appeal, which was issued on 7 March 2001 seeking support to flood victims.

The Deputy Secretary General of the Hungarian Red Cross co-ordinated Red Cross action from the disaster area. Rescue workers operated a boat, integrated into the government’s national disaster response units participating in evacuation, rescuing animals and goods and also providing food to some 1,500 persons isolated on the water-surrounded Tarpa hill. Red Cross staff and volunteers assisted evacuees by distributing food, bottled drinking water, hygiene articles, blankets and bedding material. Three regional disaster relief warehouses started to forward relief consignments - ‘survival kits’ containing basic food, hygiene items, disinfectants, mattresses, boots and blankets - to evacuees.

All of the twenty county branches of the Hungarian Red Cross participated in the disaster response and relief operation. Each of the twenty branches chose to assist one of the twenty evacuated villages. Each town branch introduced a 12-hour duty service, while county branches maintained a 24 hour non-stop duty. The national appeal was completed by local appeals published in local media, allowing branches to collect considerable amounts of donations. At national level, 2383 volunteers assisted the flood relief programme, out of which 850 were newly recruited.

It was not always easy to transport the donations to the affected area. Hungarian Red Cross vehicle capacity was insufficient for such an emergency situation. Thanks to the wide media coverage, huge amounts of donations and considerable transport capacity were offered by both firms and individuals

In response to the international appeal, the Swedish Red Cross offered bales of good quality used clothing with a value of SEK 80,000. The Finnish Red Cross also contributed used clothing valued at over FIM 360,000. The Bavarian Red Cross, a traditional partner of the Szabolcs Branch, offered huge amounts of bed linen, blankets and new clothing from their own disaster stock in the very first week of the disaster. They also participated in the distribution of drinking water and relief parcels to the affected people.


In Romania, flooding affected eleven districts, but was contained effectively. Life quickly returned to normal. Immediate financial and humanitarian assistance was provided by the Government. The Red Cross in Romania was able to complement its action by using their own DP emergency stocks (food, bedding, clothing and first aid equipment). The replenishment of their relief stocks was made possible thanks to the Donors contributions.


The manner in which the efforts of the Red Cross national societies were co-ordinated with other actors during this operation, is one of the huge pluses that can be taken. The great co-operation agreement that was signed between the governments of Hungary and Ukraine, allowing assessments to be made on either side of the border, facilitated the quick response. In addition, and of importance to the future, this close co-operation between actors in the aftermath of the flooding showed how co-ordinating efforts maximised effectiveness.


Throughout the relief operation there was good co-operation with other main charities, in particular the Maltese Charity Service, Hungarian Caritas and Interchurch Aid. The Hungarian Red Cross and the Maltese Charity Service together took to furnishing newly rebuilt houses. This furnishing programme was financed jointly by the Hungarian Red Cross and the Maltese Charity Service, and was of the value of HUF 200 million (out of which 100 million was contributed by each organisation).

Hungarian Red Cross special rescue teams joined the government disaster response units and participated in saving human lives and rescuing animals, as well as recovering furniture and other property. The Romanian Red Cross was able to draw on close contacts with the government to cement their role as a key partner in disaster response activities.


The co-operation between the government and the Romanian Red Cross was once again in evidence. In the eyes of the government, the Red Cross has proved itself effective as the sole organisation providing relief assistance to people affected by disasters.

Objectives, activities and results

Health and care

Objective 1 To monitor the growing and changing needs and respond accordingly


Dead livestock were removed from areas where they could prove a hazard to health, although it was not possible to conduct burials for two weeks. House, yards and roads were disinfected, but bearing in mind the potential danger of epidemics, the inhabitants of the twenty affected villages had to be vaccinated with gamma globulin.

There were some indirect victims of the floods. Several elderly people died of stroke and there were instances of men suffering heart attacks. To prevent any further deterioration in the health conditions the elderly and the sick were taken to nearby hospitals. A new rehabilitation department was set up in Fehérgyarmat hospital, where patients were looked after by nurses who had attended the 1700-hour nursing course of the Hungarian Red Cross.

A 3-month psychological support programme was launched in the flood hit area, to provide mental help to families who had lost almost everything. Altogether twenty one psychological and social workers participated in the programme, providing ten sessions and reaching 630 families and individuals. Helping conversations held regularly by professional volunteers were aimed at supporting the affected population, in order that they might cope with the psychological trauma and come to terms with their situation.


The initial assessment of the situation by the Red Cross national society working with the government lead to a successful immediate response. In this phase the Red Cross took on the role of supplying resources from its warehouses around the country to beneficiaries in eleven districts. There were no deaths and damage to infrastructure was limited. After this phase had been completed, the Red Cross operation focussed in the post disaster phase on the areas of Maramures and Bistrita Nasaud. There, over 3,000 people and 1,500 people respectively were assisted with food parcels that contained basic items such as rice and tins of meat. The experience that the Romanian Red Cross has built up over the years meant that assessment of the situation and the appropriate action to take was well done.

Water and sanitation

Objective 1 To ensure that drinking water sources are safe for public consumption;


Flooded cemeteries and the thousands of animals killed contaminated drinking water in most settlements. Thus the first relief parcels distributed among the affected population also contained bottled drinking water. Tens of thousands of bottles of mineral water and chlorine tablets were also distributed.


In the first stages of the operation, it was of paramount importance that wells that had been contaminated were returned to working order. This was done by the Red Cross, with CHF 3,200 coming from the Romanian Red Cross disaster fund, and helped to pay for the water purification unit working in the Maramures district. Details of the efforts of the Romanian Red Cross in securing safe drinking water from wells can be found at

Relief distribution of food and basic non-food items

Objective 1 To continue the distribution of relief items to 25,000 beneficiaries in Hungary, 15,000 in Romania and 13,000 in Ukraine;


The initial phase of the operation saw large amounts of relief items being distributed to the needy. The Federation released funds from the DREF to aid in the provision of food and hygiene items in Hungary. Three of Hungarian Red Cross regional disaster warehouses provided continuous help by forwarding relief items to the affected communities during and following the flood. As disaster stocks were practically emptied as a result of the flood relief programme, restocking became absolutely necessary. In Romania the initial phase was successfully completed with the provision of relief items to those in need

Shelter w


In Hungary evacuees were accommodated by the local government (in temporary accommodation centres). The accommodation of the most vulnerable groups was helped by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs (hospitals, homes for the elderly, etc. received them). Many evacuees found accommodation with relatives, friends or host families. It was the initiative of the Hungarian Red Cross that host families be granted a monthly allowance for each accommodated person.


The operation in Romania saw the government taking the responsibility for assessing damage to infrastructure and housing through the specially selected reconstruction committee. Therefore, after the initial evacuation efforts, the Red Cross concentrated on other ways of assisting the victims of the flooding.

National Society Capacity Building

Objective 1 To strengthen the Red Cross Capacities and programmes to assist the poor and marginalised being left behind in the transition from command to free market economies


As floods have been occurring in Hungary over consecutive years, the Hungarian Red Cross, in order to improve its DP/DR capacity, held a nation-wide Disaster Preparedness training for senior staff members in 2001. The course was organised jointly by the National Disaster Preparedness Directorate and was financed by the Federation Regional Delegation.

Simultaneously, a disaster response capacity assessment was held to determine the level of sufficient stocks enabling the Society to provide immediate help in case of an emergency. The Hungarian Red Cross has five regional disaster warehouses (in Budapest, Csénye, Kaposvár and Békéscsaba). As a result of repeated floods, their stocks had become practically exhausted. Thanks to the continued support to the Federation Appeal, a further CHF 85,280 was made available to the Hungarian Red Cross, which enabled the replenishing of disaster preparedness stocks.

Bearing in mind the recommendations of the capacity assessment, stocks have been filled with three main groups of articles, which were distributed between the regional DP warehouses:

  • accommodation items (4 tents to accommodate 125 persons with medical isolation wards, 130 spare beds, disaster blankets)
  • food items (850 food parcels)
  • hygienic items (850 hygiene parcels)
  • in addition to that, to improve the quality of work in both warehouse maintenance and DP/DR activities a laptop and a digital camera were also purchased.

Local communities have learned from experience that help can be expected from the Hungarian Red Cross. Both national and local media gave extensive coverage of the event, focusing on the activities of charitable organisations. A large number of volunteers (many of them new) have also joined relief operations. The pilot psychological support programme was carried out by trained professional volunteers.


The stocks that were used from the Romanian disaster intervention warehouses were replenished from money received in June 2002 from the Federation (CHF 103,000) that came largely from a donation by the Luxembourg government and the Canadian RC. In November 2002 the following items were purchased:

  • 3,000 sets of bed linen
  • 1,000 wool blankets
  • 500 pairs of boots for women and 500 pairs for men
  • 500 pairs of shoes for men
  • Items for replenishing first aid kits (wood splints, scissors, pencils, notebooks, cotton wool bags, sterile compresses)

Assessment and lessons learned

The fact that Hungary and Romania regularly experience flooding means that the national societies are well voiced in conducting relief operations. What the floods in 2001 reinforced was the benefits to be gained from mutual co-operation. This means working in partnership with the governments and authorities in the countries concerned, but also realising that the region faces many common challenges and that cross border co-operation is the best way to face them.

From the 2001 floods, concrete examples can be given to show this mindset in work. Firstly, negotiations between the Tissue Basin countries resulted in some joint seminars for disaster prevention and response. A further illustration of mutual co-operation is the purchase of four huge tents by the Hungarian Red Cross. Accommodating such large numbers of evacuees as there was following the 2001 flooding showed that it was necessary to have such a resource immediately available wherever it may be needed. The Hungarian Red Cross have made it clear that they see this acquisition as being for the region as a whole, not just as a safeguard in the event of disaster within the borders of Hungary. The Federation supported these initiatives because it is clear that sharing expertise and resources is a practicable way to meet challenges that are common to the Tisza Basin region.

For further details please contact: Penny Elghady, Phone : 41 22 730 4319; Fax: 41 22 733 03 95; email:

All International Federation Operations seek to adhere to the Code of Conduct and are committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. The procurement for this operation was carried out in full compliance and conformity with the Federation’s standard for international and local procurement.

For support to or for further information concerning Federation operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at This operation sought to administer to the immediate requirements of the victims of this disaster. Subsequent operations to promote sustainable development or long-term capacity building will require additional support, and these programmes are outlined on the Federation’s website.

Lynette Lowndes
Europe Department

John Horekens
Director External
Relations Division

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