Balkans: Concern over mounting needs prompts Red Cross to gear-up for long-haul
Geneva/ Budapest, 25 May 2014: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is highly concerned over the growing needs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia following the worst ever recorded floods.
“The full extent of the damage is still unclear. However initial assessments show that the affected populations have experienced incapacitating losses and they remain exposed to increasing risks including landslides and unearthed landmines,” said Anitta Underlin, Director of the IFRC in Europe.
The floods have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes, damaged buildings and infrastructure, swamped large swathes of farmland and destroyed crops and livelihoods. Concerns continue to escalate particularly in Serbia, as the water level of the Sava and Danube Rivers are expected to rise over the weekend due to more rainfall.
The IFRC is also worried about the potential health risks that the affected populations may be exposed to because of contaminated or destroyed water sources and flooded sewage systems, which have made it difficult for people to properly dispose of human and household waste.
“Right now, the National Red Cross Societies with support from their partners in the Movement are focused on delivering essential life-saving aid such as safe drinking water, food, shelter, hygiene kits and blankets to the affected populations, and as the situation becomes clearer in the coming days, we will intensify our efforts,” said Underlin.
Despite the current harsh conditions, thousands of volunteers and staff of the National Red Cross Societies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia have been ceaselessly assisting with rescue and evacuation efforts and delivering relief items to survivors in temporary shelters and people who stays in towns without electricity, water or cooking facilities. In some parts, the volunteers had to wade through chest-deep water to reach the affected populations.
"These unprecedented floods pose unprecedented challenges. We fear that the journey to recovery for the affected populations will be long and challenging. We have started assessing and planning for the recovery needs,” said Anitta Underlin. “Not only do we need to support those who have been affected to regain a semblance of their normal lives, it is also critical that they come out of this stronger and become more resilient to possible future disasters such as this.”
The Red Cross Red Crescent climate centre based in the Netherlands is monitoring the situation closely as to assess the risk for further flooding in the affected areas.
“We are committed to supporting the affected populations recover from this disaster and we are prepared to stay for the long-haul. Full recovery will require a coordinated and concerted effort by the entire international community - it will require commitment and long term investment," emphasized Underlin.
The IFRC has released over 620,000 Swiss francs (over 690,000 US dollars) a to rapidly assist those who have been severely affected by the floods in Serbia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, the IFRC launched a preliminary for 4,522,235 Swiss francs to support the emergency response operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina (http://adore.ifrc.org/Download.aspx?FileId=59151)
For further information, please contact:
Lasse Norgaard, communication manager, IFRC Europe zone
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Benoit Matsha-Carpentier, senior communications officer, IFRC
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The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.