Deeply concerned by the devastating floods in the Balkans – days of rainfall have reportedly submerged entire villages and triggered landslides across the region – the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator is rallying the international community to provide speedy assistance that can help save lives and put people on the road to recovery.
In a statement issued earlier today, Valerie Amos, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, expressed concern about the flooding that has struck Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
She has since dispatched a team of UN disaster assessment experts to the region, as the Organization's broader humanitarian response has swung in action.
The floods have so far claimed more than 35 lives and affected hundreds of thousands of people, she said. Reportedly the worst floods in the Balkans in decades, emergency responders fear that more rain could lead to further rises in water levels, additional storm surges and landslides.
Media reports suggest that Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have been affected by cyclone Tamara and have been experiencing extremely heavy rain, strong winds and low temperatures. On 13 May, continuous, heavy rainfall began, and the wider region, including Croatia, has recorded three months' worth of rain in three days
“In all three countries, the Government is leading the flood response, distributing food and other relief supplies, and providing emergency shelter. A state of emergency has been declared in Serbia and Bosnia, where tens of thousands of people have been evacuated,” said Ms. Amos in her statement.
Reporting that the UN and humanitarian partners have offered assistance to the authorities in the affected countries, Ms. Amos said that she has dispatched a UN Disaster Coordination and Assessment team to Serbia and life-saving supplies are on their way from Brindisi, where the Organization maintains a logistics base.
In addition, teams from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund, (UNICEF) the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are working with the authorities to help assess people's needs and provide food, clean water and sanitation support and debris removal.
“I welcome the speedy response by the national authorities and their partners and the support provided by neighbouring countries and other members of the international community, Mr. Amos said, adding: “We must do all we can to ensure that further loss of life is prevented and help people recover.”
Later in the day, WFP announced that it had sent a second batch of emergency relief items to Serbia. The shipment included water tanks, generators and inflatable boats provided by WFP and the Norwegian Government.
A further flight is scheduled today to Tuzla, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with tents and water containers and purification equipment also from the Norwegian Government.
WFP says that it will launch a $1.5 million operation to respond to immediate humanitarian needs upon a request from the Government of Serbia and in coordination with the authorities there and other UN organizations on the ground.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, where floods have exceeded emergency levels in the north, WFP is planning to send life-saving food assistance to 150,000 of the most vulnerable flood-affected people.