OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Serbia & Montenegro Floods
This situation report is based on information received from the UN agencies, funds and programmes resident in Serbia & Montenegro and the Information Center of the Province of Vojvodina, as well as information obtained from local media.
1. Two municipalities in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina (by the border with Romania) - Secanj and Zitiste - were flooded by the Tamis River on 21 April due to a flood wave from Romania, after dams had yielded under pressure from high tides caused by heavy rains. The torrent has endangered livelihoods of at least 20.000 inhabitants in several municipalities. Municipalities of Secanj, Zitiste, Bela Crkva and Plandiste are under proclamation of natural disaster alert.
2. Some 2,500 houses in Bela Crkva are affected by high-level underground waters. The village of Busenje in Secanj is an island surrounded by water, and the villages of Krajisnik and Surjan are potentially endangered.
3. The village of Jasa Tomic (3,500 people) in Secanj was struck first and most severely. More than 600 houses are under water and more than 250 have been completely destroyed. It is expected that more houses will collapse once water recede. 120 wagons of seed wheat reserve in the village has also been destroyed. Agricultural machinery is trapped under the mud. Bridges and electricity supply have been damaged. More than 3,000 head of cattle has perished, and there is fear of infections, even more so due to the fact that around 5,000 pigs perished in the flood at a farm on the Romanian side of the border and are being carried by water over to the Secanj municipality. The Mayor of the Secanj municipality is appealing for food, clothes, veterinary medicines and seed supply.
4. Heavy rains are still on in Romania, and additional water is coming from melting snow in the Carpathian Mountains. The critical spot is the Medja village in the Zitiste municipality where the dam was broken and successfully rebuilt in the past few days. If this dam collapses, the Banat region, which encompasses the largest share of Vojvodinian province, will mostly be covered in water. The citizens of Medja are in need of food, drinking water, boots and construction material.
5. Most people have found shelter with relatives, while 230 persons are accommodated in seven collective shelters (six in Secanj and one in Zitiste). The shelters are mainly school buildings and one hotel.
6. The Government of Serbia has established a Crisis Team, headed by the Minister for Capital Investments, who vowed to rebuild houses in area upon withdrawal of water. Through the Serbian Red Cross network, humanitarian aid from state reserves has been distributed.
7. The Serbian Ministry of Agriculture has engaged veterinarian inspection and services to collect the corpses of dead animals and destroy them.
8. The Ministry of Defense has mobilized army members, who have joined hands with so-called "Civil Defense Teams"; they have rebuilt the 300 meters of the broken dam in Medja, provided tents, medical supplies and canned food to the citizens of Secanj municipality.
9. The State Institute for Maize will donate 22 tons of hybrid maize seed and 10 tons of seed potato to the flooded municipalities. "Serbian Railways" will donate 5 tons of humanitarian aid.
10. The People's Office within the Serbian President's Cabinet, in cooperation with B92 Radio/TV [private company] is collecting humanitarian aid and has established a trust fund to which citizens may contribute. Serbian private companies manufacturing food, bottled water and medicines have answered the call to help ("Karneks" company with 10,000 USD worth of food, "Velefarm" and "Galenika " with 10,000 USD worth of medicines, "Knjaz Milos" with 5,500 packages of water and juices and "Tigar" with 150 pairs of rubber boots.
11. Serbian Red Cross has distributed 3,000 blankets, 1,200 mattresses, 800 pieces of 15 l water containers, 300 kitchen sets, 20,100 food-cans and 300 bottles of water, hygiene sets, diapers and baby-hygiene sets, shoes, rubber boots and clothes. Through the local IFRC delegation, Serbian Red Cross has appealed to ICRC in Geneva for additional funds, intended mainly for procurement of hygiene articles.
UN Country Team (UNCT) Response
12. The Government of Serbia announced the intention to invite international organizations and embassies based in the country to provide help, but no official request has come in yet. UNCT is awaiting an official letter from the Prime Minister of Serbia/Minster of Foreign Affairs.
13. Meanwhile, certain UN agencies that have the liberty to respond within the humanitarian part of their mandate have been/plan to become involved as follows:
14. While immediate concern is to ensure supply of food and shelter to the population, the FAO has joined coordinated efforts aimed at monitoring and mitigating the damages to agricultural production and livelihoods in the southern Banat area. Last minute evacuation of entire villages prevented loss of human lives, but situation in the field is alarming since economic activities, especially in the agricultural sector, have been heavily affected, and the entire area depends largely on agricultural income.
15. Directly affected farmland counts up to more than 15,000 hectares (5,000 hectares in Secanj, 8,000 hectares in Bela Crkva and 3,500 in Zitiste municipality) while additional 60,000 is at risk (mostly corn, wheat and sunflower fields, some vegetable and fruit orchards).
16. The Serbian Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Water management has addressed an appeal for emergency technical cooperation to the FAO Head Office, outlining immediate, short term and mid term interventions aimed at restoring agricultural productivity in the area. Such support in flood remediation, coordination and technical assistance will be formulated in accordance with the findings of the needs assessments performed in the affected area upon the inundation period.
17. Collecting donations from UNDP national staff to be distributed to affected populations through the NGO network pertaining to the UNDP Poverty Reduction and Economic Development Cluster.
18. Planning a one-day mission to affected areas in order to assess the situation; will be implementing poverty reduction (post-emergency relief) programmes aimed at most vulnerable groups among the affected population, in cooperation with the Government, relevant authorities and the civil society organizations.
19. When flooding started to affect Banat area in Vojvodina, UNHCR focused monitoring on refugee and locally affected vulnerable families. In close coordination with the Serbian Red Cross, UNHCR dispatched the following basic non-food items for immediate distribution to the most vulnerable families: 50 beds, 150 mattresses, 300 blankets, 10 tents, 25 hygiene parcels. This contribution by UNHCR carries no commitment to cover non food item needs on a larger scale.
20. Additionally, UNHCR has no mandate or framework in place to provide food to populations affected by natural disasters.
21. It is UNHCR's understanding that refugees and IDPs affected should primarily benefit from emergency relief operations (food, non-food, shelter) put in place by the Authorities and relevant entities (Serbian Red Cross) for the population at large. In view of this and considering the limited resources available, UNHCR is ready to participate in the UNCT task force but will consider further direct assistance to the refugees/IDPs and the most vulnerable local population on a very limited scale only.
22. Furthermore, UNHCR is ready to share all information received from its field monitoring teams, but is not in a position to assign human resources to this crisis exclusively. The position of UNHCR is that monitoring and distribution of relief assistance should be carried out by relevant Authorities and with active participation from other UN agencies involved.
23. UNICEF is collecting information related to the number of children affected. It is obvious that the most immediate needs related to food, hygiene and clothing items would be met through Red Cross assistance. On 26 April, they learned that the most urgent assistance is needed for approximately 100 children (of which 15 are babies) accommodated in collective centres.
UNICEF will provide the following assistance:
a) Education and recreation kits and basic learning materials to enable children in collective centers to continue schooling;
b) Activate local networks of associates (schoolteachers and NGOs) to provide education and psychosocial assistance to affected children;
c) Hygiene Kits for babies (diapers, baby cream and sanitary napkins);
d) Information materials related to: Infant Feeding in Emergencies, A Water Handbook, Urgent Pediatrics in Non-Hospital Conditions;
e) Close contact with local networks to get information on the status of children and coordination of all further activities with UNCT;
f) Issue press statement on main areas of concern, particularly related to importance of children continuing schooling and provide possible solutions with their well-developed networks.
24. The office will be sending regular updates as their response to the flood develops.
25. Please note that UNICEF is in the final stages of completing their Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan for 2005 and Onwards.
26. The national, province and district public health institutes are monitoring the public health situation.
Water safety: The water piping systems in Jasa Tomic, Medja and Krajisnik villages are shut down, as they are exposed to risk of contamination. The population is provided with water from tanks and bottled water.
Communicable diseases surveillance: Two communicable diseases surveillance systems are in place: the regular routine system based on individual reports on suspected cases of communicable diseases and the "alert" - early warning system based on syndrome reports. Reports are collected on a daily basis and analysed by the Institute of Public Health (IPH) in Zrenjanin [district IPH].
27. So far no clusters of communicable diseases have been identified. There were three cases of diarrhea in one collective centre on 24 April (watery diarrhea - enterocolitis), and two cases of diarrhea in the general population on 25 April (watery diarrhea - enterocolitis). All cases of diarrhea were monitored and stabilized within 24 hours. No further or connected cases were identified. A case of lice in 6 persons was identified when they were referred to the collective shelter. The persons were provided with appropriate treatment.
28. No cases of typhoid, shigellosis (dysentery) nor hepatitis A have been suspected or reported.
Epidemiological risks: The area bears increased risk for communicable diseases outbreaks, especially when the water withdraws and returns to homes start. Private water wells and septic tanks have probably been contaminated with faeces. It is estimated that water will not recede for at least a month - with possible additional floods. Large numbers of animals have perished in the flood (the corpses of which are still in the water and mud) and this poses an additional issue.
Possible needs for assistance:
a) General assistance: no specifics known to WHO, but the situation may require prolonged procurement of safe drinking water in tanks and bottled water, food, clothes and hygiene items. Municipalities will probably need assistance when clean-up operation starts.
b) The public health system: public health laboratories in IPH Zrenjanin are currently operating without shortages. However, consumables for laboratory testing of communicable diseases [dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis A] might be needed. WHO has requested a specification of possible needs. Equipment for testing of water in individual water wells and chlorinators might be needed in the coming period. The IPH Zrenjanin has requested assistance from the Health Secretariat of Vojvodina for improved water testing equipment [current equipment is 25 years old - although still operational]. Currently, the testing of sources of water in the risk areas [partially flooded] is implemented every 2 to 3 days.
29. This Situation Report and information on ongoing emergencies is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int.
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