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Serbia and Montenegro: FAO - Emergency assistance for flood effected areas in South Banat

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News and Press Release
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South Banat, Vojvodina 26th April 2005 - While immediate concern is to ensure supply of food and shelter to the population at risk, the UN FAO joins the coordinated efforts in monitoring and mitigating the damages to the agricultural production and livelihoods in the flooded South Banat area.
For the last six days the population of Banat, North East of Vojvodina Province has been struggling against severe floods brought by heavy rain and snow melting in Carpathian Mountains. The area adjacent to river Tamis, Nera, Karas, Moravica and Brzava has been damaged by extreme torrent that has endangered livelihoods of at least 20.000 inhabitants in several municipalities.

Last minute evacuation of whole villages prevented the loss of human life's, however the situation on the field in alarming since the whole economic activity likewise in the agricultural sector is heavily effected. The information below is compilation of data provided by governmental institutions and reports from the network of FAO local agronomists present at the site. It is illustrative of severe damages in the area where population predominantly relies on agricultural income.

Images from the field

Municipalities of Secanj, Zitiste, Bela Crkva and Plandiste are under proclamation of natural disaster alert. Initial reports from Secanj, the most directly stroken area, point the severe damage to Jasa Tomic, village at the very border with Romania, where at least 120 houses have been either completely destroyed or severely damaged, a few thousand inhabitants displaced, bridges and electrical infrastructure damaged. Due to high level of underground waters some 2.500 houses are partially damaged (basements flooded and humidity) in Bela Crkva. Tiny village of Busenje, Secanj, is an island surrounded by water, while potentially endangered are also Krajisnik, Surjan, and Medja, the last one in Zitiste municipality.

Directly flood affected farmland counts to up to more than 15.000 hectars (5000 hectars in Secanj, 8 000 hectars in Bela Crkva and 3.500 in Zitiste municipality) while additional 60.000 is in potential risk.

The flooded arable surfaces are mostly under field crops - corn, wheat, sunflower, and some vegetables and orchards. While the floods alone result in losses of livestock, (exact number still has to be estimated) there is potential risk of an outbreak of animal and waterborne diseases, so prevention measures coordinated by Veterinarian services, are of vital importance.

The need for joint action

The Republic Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Water management has addressed UN FAO Head Office with appeal for emergency technical cooperation, in order to outline the immediate, short term and mid term interventions to restore agricultural productivity in the area. Such support in flood remediation, coordination and technical assistance of the flooding impacts would be formulated according to the findings of the needs assessments performed in the affected area upon the inundation period.

According to information provided by Republic Hydrometheorological Service, the water level of rivers in Banat is in decreasing tendency, and though a slight growth is expected in following day or two, it should not trigger further torrent. Inundation period is hard to predict. If enduring, it might further increase vulnerability of the population and bring additional damage to economic and social activities in the area.

In order to provide timely response, there is a need for urgent coordination of donor actions that will address needs beyond immediate effects of the flooding and focus on rehabilitation of livelihoods and infrastructure in the area of south Banat.