Poland: Floods Final Report (Appeal No. 23/2001)

Originally published


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: www.ifrc.org

Appeal No. 23/2001; Launched on: 9 August 2001 for 5 months for CHF 2,895,944.
The Appeal was extended until September 2002 due to the late payment of pledges.
Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) Allocated: CHF 50, 000
Number of beneficiaries: 50,000
Period covered: August 2001-September 2002 ; last Operations Update issued 18 November, 2001


Appeal coverage: 67.9% (75% taking into consideration the in-kind contributions received from neighbouring countries and not recorded as PMN)
Related Appeals: Central Europe Appeal - AP01.42/2002


Floods and storms swept Poland for a month, leaving 50,000 people in serious distress. Appealing for 2.9 million Swiss francs to help them during the winter season, the Federation warned the growing needs particularly in the hardest hit areas in the south of the country.

Beginning July 9th, torrential rainfall and consequent flooding affected widespread areas in Poland along the Vistula River. The first areas to be hit were the coastal cities of Gdansk and Slupsk. In addition to the extreme damage caused by high wind and rain, flood water from the Vistula river and its tributaries tore through some of the most vulnerable sections of theses cities. By the time the wind and rain subsided, more than 300 homes were under water and more than $1 million of damage was caused in Slupsk alone.

In Gdansk 4,000 persons suffered losses, with 3,200 in Slupsk; 26 persons died during the flood. Torrential rains continued during the month of July. The hardest hit areas were the cities and towns of southern Poland along the Vistula where 300 hectares of land were flooded. Five voivodships (districts) were affected where bridges, sewage systems, water and gas supplies, houses and livelihoods were destroyed. In addition 15 000 people were evacuated to temporary collective shelters.

  • A number of new houses were destroyed before they were completed. Some had to be taken apart and will never be inhabited.
  • Many families lost all of their material possessions as their houses and households were ruined.
  • No harvest could be collected from the flooded fields - a whole year of farm' work was wasted.
  • In addition to people and their possessions, animals also suffered. Many animals did not survive or contracted diseases.
  • In the areas flooded - both in towns and villages - the majority of infrastructure (bridges, roads, water supply, electric power stations, etc.) needed major repairs.
  • The office buildings of the Polish Red Cross District Administration and the Crisis Intervention Centre in Slupsk were destroyed during the flood. Costs of repairs of the buildings was estimated at more than PLN 22,000.
  • The flood directly affected 50,000 persons, i.e. approximately 14,000 families.

The Polish Red Cross (Polski Czerwony Krzyz - PCK) immediately organized help for the flood victims. Late in the evening of 9 July 2001 the PCK Headquarters launched a nation-wide appeal for the flood victims that was sent to the mass-media and all regional and local PCK offices. Already the same night, the first transports with humanitarian aid for flood victims in the Gdansk and Slupsk regions left PCK intervention warehouses. The transports consisted mainly of sleeping bags, blankets, clothing and water. The most needed items such as food, torches, bedclothes or rubber boots were shipped in more than 180 transports. In addition, the PCK Headquarters immediately transferred money to its district offices to buy, among other things, necessary goods such as preserved food, disinfectants and cleaning materials.

Within the first day of the disaster an assessment was immediately undertaken by the National Society. It evaluated the need for immediate relief items (food, clothing, blankets, hygiene products, clean and drinking water and first aid kits). Local appeals were made and a national appeal was launched by the Polish Red Cross for financial support. The first phase of the emergency operation was very successful: collection and distribution of relief items, organisation and transport to the regions affected by the floods, organisation of search and rescue dog teams in Gdansk. The Polish Red Cross coordinated its efforts with various agencies involved including Governmental authorities and public institutions.

The response from the Polish public was very generous. From individuals to factories, retail stores to the scouts, virtually all sectors of society -including considerable media support- participated in aiding the victims, through donations to the Polish Red Cross. Results were positive and demonstrated well the capacities of the Polish Red Cross to mobilise considerable resources locally (both in kind and in cash allowing the first phase of the relief operation to be conducted entirely by the Polish Red Cross. Early donations in cash, kind and services from sister national societies (Netherlands Red Cross, German Red Cross) were very useful during this first phase.

At the end of July, following a needs assessments from local Red Cross branches, the German Red Cross undertook an assessment for the second phase of the operation. Following further assessments, an international appeal was launched in early August through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to continue to support the Polish Red Cross in its relief operation.

The Federation also granted an allocation (CHF 50.000) from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Polish Red Cross in this second phase. In view of continuously worsening flood situation in southern Poland, on 25 July 2001 the Polish Red Cross repeated the nation-wide appeal to the public asking for further help.

Red Cross/Red Crescent Action

The Polish Red Cross was the principal emergency response agency in the field, and the local chapters managed very successfully to quickly mobilise more than 200 volunteers in affected areas to distribute relief items. A total of 1.400 volunteers participated in this initial operation together with the regular staff, supporting the work of the local branches. A Flood task force was established to better coordinate the relief operation with the various districts involved.

National Red Cross societies also offered their participation in the actions for the benefit of the Polish flood victims: the Red Cross from Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Slovenia actively participated in the aid through working with the PCK and other National Associations joined through the International Federation of the Red Cross.

Objectives, activities and results w

Relief distribution of food and basic non-food itemsw

Objective 1 To assess and select the most vulnerable people of the five voivodships (districts) most affected (Swietokrzyskie, Podkarpackie, Malopolskie, Lubelskie, Pomorskie)

The Polish Red Cross branch offices were already efficient and experienced in working with local communities. Beneficiaries of Red Cross programmes were identified by the Red Cross branches together with the local welfare offices. Among these were people who had lost their houses and all of their belongings. Some had houses but lacked any savings that would allow them to restore their lives. The volunteers together with the branch staff have identified the most vulnerable in the affected communities and prepared list of beneficiaries.

Objective 2 To provide non-food assistance for up to 4000 families in the five most affected vovoidships

For the second phase of the relief operation the Polish Red Cross reallocated over 1,000,000 CHF from the Head Office's disaster relief account, as well as 425,000 CHF from the money collected by PRC branches in the areas affected by the flood. Polish Red Cross local branches began the process of purchasing the relief items (coal and household equipment essentially) and forwarded them to the selected beneficiaries.

In each affected district various items such as refrigerators, stoves, blankets, coal and the like were distributed to those who had been identified as beneficiaries. (For procurement details on these items, please see Logistics, Objective 1). Thanks to a generous response from the private and business communities, a wide range of goods were available for one-off distribution. The branches reported to Polish Red Cross Headquarters regarding how the distribution of relief items was organised in these five voidvoidships during the first phase of the operation. The list of beneficiaries is available at branch level.

Objective 3 To provide daily lunches to 1.000 children for 160 days

The Polish Red Cross was not able to achieve this goal. Unfortunately, the Polish Red Cross did not receive enough funds to cover the costs for this activity. However, the Polish Red Cross branches from the flood affected areas managed to provide lunches to about 15% of the children needing them.


Objective 1 To procure relief goods

Thanks to a generous response from the Polish public, (individuals, retail establishments, industrial companies and embassies, with the active support of the media), the Polish Red Cross was able to procure not only relief goods, but also the means to transport them, and even contributions of fuel for the trucks and cars being used. Relief goods were also generously provided by other Red Cross societies (such as the German, Dutch and Danish Red Cross). Each local Red Cross branch was able to organize local supplies, but also to receive, store and distribute goods received from other National Societies and from the Polish Red Cross.

The following are just a few of the many examples of goods procured, and how they were procured: in Kielce, collected funds were used to buy 45 refrigerators, 63 washing machines, 15 stoves and so on. The Red Cross was assisted in this by a local Appliance/Electronic Goods store. Elsewhere, two petrochemical firms provided some five hundred litters of fuel for transport operations, while some local trucking companies provided needed vehicles and the like.

Funds for procurement came from a wide range of sources. Together with local media, a victim's aid bank account was established, which collected 372,248 ZL (approximately. CHF 151,020). A television special with TV and Radio Lublin raised some 53,248 ZL. (approximately CHF 21,602 ). These represent just two of dozens of different fund raising activities that involved contributions from every aspect of society. In kind assistance was also received from sister Red Cross Societies, which was greatly appreciated such as rubber boots, new and used clothes, tents and related equipment, garbage bags, hygienic supplies, bug repellent and so on.


Financial assistance was also offered by a number of companies and institutions such as:

  • Baltica Travel Office financed a summer camp in Lomza for 50 children from flood-affected families from Krakow;
  • the Bank Slaski Foundation from Bielsko-Biala organized a summer camp for 40 children from the Swietokrzyski region;
  • Benckiser Poland donated a shipment of 18 tons of washing powder and other cleaning materials;
  • Elektrolux donated a shipment of washing powder;
  • Oriflame donated three shipments of their hygienic and cosmetic products;
  • the Warsaw Stock Exchange donated PLN100,000 for the flood victims in south-eastern Poland;
  • Totalizator Sportowy Ltd. (National Lottery) jointly with the PCK organized a humanitarian event
"Heart Game" from which it donated 90% of profits to the Polish Red Cross. The PCK bought 172 bicycles for rural families affected by the flood with these resources.


The Polish Red Cross has shown its capacity to respond quickly to the needs of the most affected people during the first emergency phase. This was made possible through the efficient mobilization of resources (Human: Red Cross volunteers, material resources collected through public donations, DP stocks and financial thanks to good relation with the private sector).

The assistance of the International Federation of the Red Cross was requested at a later stage. An international appeal for help to the Polish flood victims was launched on 9 August 2001. An allocation from the DREF was immediately released (CHF 50,000) to continue to support aid activities. Sisters National Societies from the region also contributed to support this operation for the benefit of the Polish flood victims (Austrian Red Cross, the Czech Red Cross, Estonian Red Cross, Netherlands Red Cross, German Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross and Slovenian Red Cross) through cash and mostly in kind donation (see list of pledges).

The first shipments were provided by the German Red Cross after a proper assessment jointly made by Polish Red Cross and German Red Cross in the affected areas. The German Red Cross donated DM 20,000 to cover basic needs in the former Tarnobrzeg and Lublin administrative regions. Some 364 tons of donations of a total value of PLN 5,726,323 were received from abroad. Thanks to this foreign aid, Polish flood victims received both the articles needed directly after flooding (blankets, beds, thermoses, clothing, etc.) and those necessary once the flood waters had receded (rubber gloves and boots, plastic bags for garbage/rubbish, cleaning articles, disinfectants).

Objective 2 RCA local branches to distribute releif goods, with the support of volunteers,and to provide transport for volunteers and staff to affected region.

Various forms of transport were offered by trucking companies. In addition to this, transport was also offered and provided by the military. A large number of trucks and cars were made available in each affected area for transporting relief goods, victims and volunteers which allowed a smooth implementation of the operation (distributions).

National Society Capacity Building

Since flooding is an annual menace, the Federation in close collaboration with other partner national societies continued to further strengthen the disaster preparedness and response capacities of Polish Red Cross branches.

The Polish Red Cross held with the support of the Regional Delegation for Central Europe and German Red Cross some training courses for branches and headquarters in the areas of disaster response and preparedness as well as communications. These workshops and training were organized during the spring 2002. One workshop was organized in November 2001 with the DP coordinator of the branches affected by the floods. The training focused on the improvement of the planning through better damage and needs assessments, on promoting the national society image among communities, increasing public awareness and on a better communication between branches and headquarters. A second workshop was organized in June 2002 for the branches directors. Two of the three days were dedicated on Disaster Management issues.

The Polish Red Cross has an existing disaster preparedness plan. However there is a recognised need for this to be reviewed and adjusted, particularly given the fact that the structure of the National Society will itself be changing. Once the restructuring process of the national society will be completed, the needed work on the DP plan will then commence. This will occur in the second half of 2002.

The local community participated in repairing the Red Cross premises in Slupsk. The repairs to the roof and premises have been successfully completed. The cost was in the area of 9,500 CHF. The branch was pleased to receive renovation materials and equipment as a donation. In addition, painting and small repairs were carried out by inhabitants of the Intervention Home as well as by volunteers.

As reflected in the financial report some balance of funds were left over, the plan is to use this balance for a capacity building project. This Central Europe global project is covering the 15 National Societies and is co-funded by the Federation Capacity Building Funds (covering the costs for 6 national societies in the Balkans and in Bulgaria), by the Nordic Baltic Plans (3 Baltic national societies) and for the remaining 6 national society , it was planned to use the funds budgeted in the Emergency Appeals for the capacity building components (Hungary/Romania floods 2001, Polands Floods 2001, Central Europe Floods 2002).

This project aim at increasing the awareness and skills of the National Society's staff in the Appeal process and in Reporting. It also aims to reinforce branch capacities in providing accurate information and reports. It involves:

  • presenting the Appeal process, its various mechanisms in order for the national societies to develop a comprehensive understanding of the tools that are available in time of emergency;
  • provision of a set of translated documents (various appeals & reports formats, reporting guidelines, Sphere handbook, Training curriculum);
  • Ensure a proper training at Headquarters and branch level in close collaboration with the disaster management departments of the national societies concerned.
The overall objective is to have national societies , taking an increasing ownership of the training process at the branch level. In the end, branch level staff will be well versed and knowledgeable about the entire process, and will also be able to pass on this knowledge to new members and volunteers. The hoped for result is clear: National Societies possessing this capacity to write better , more accurate appeals and reports that satisfy donor demands.

Reporting as a monitoring and fundraising tool and making programmes accountable is a direct programme management skill. Since reporting depends greatly on information from branches, it becomes an important branch development tool. This in turn should help build stronger relationships, aid in fundraising, and leave the national societies in better position to build partnership, which in the end will benefit the vulnerable people in needs. This project could not be implemented within the time frame of the Appeal due to the re-structuring and change process and elections held in Polish Red Cross. The project will be completed by June 2003. Final reports will be forwarded to our main donors.

The assistance provided to the flood victims did not stop when the rains subsided. The second phase included drainage of flooded areas and buildings and reconstruction of damaged buildings and infrastructure. 16 months after the disaster, Polish Red Cross continues to assist the flood victims, as always concentrating on the support for the poorest and most vulnerable population groups. However, the organization's abilities are limited: only about 4,000 families can count on receiving material support. This represents, nevertheless, 20 percent of those who suffered from the flood.

Assessment and lessons learned

Coordination was carried out by the Polish Red Cross headquarters. During the most critical and urgent phase of the operation a flood relief task force was established. This included the participation of delegates from the German Red Cross assigned in the country for this disaster. Two daily meetings were organised, task force members collected and evaluated information from the PRC branches regarding both needs and support offered.. Following this the task force coordinated the sending of relief consignments to the areas where they were most needed. Other sister national societies supported the Polish Red Cross through the Federation or directly. Decisions regarding relief items and their final destinations were taken by the flood relief task force in the headquarters, after checking with the flood affected branches.

Operational reports were prepared in the branches, and then sent to headquarters for consolidation. Unfortunately, the coverage of the Appeal for the second phase was very low. It was insufficient to meet the needs of those affected. This second phase was perceived as the most difficult one in which more support was needed.

The Polish Red Cross has demonstrated its effectiveness in responding to the immediate needs after the disaster mobilizing by itself both financial and human resources to help the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, the end of the emergency phase meant also a decrease of interest from donors, leaving affected people in a critical situation for another long winter period. A remaining balance of approximately CHF 27,000 will be used to re-stock contingency stock supplies and to carry out disaster preparedness training activities.

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

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 http://www.ifrc.org. 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
External Relations Division

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