WINNIPEG, Man. – When three months of rain fell in only three days in mid-May and caused severe flooding, Serbia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina declared states of emergency, and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) quickly began working on its disaster response.
More than 40 people have died, hundreds are injured and hundreds of thousands more were forced to evacuate. With the displacement and lack of access to water and electricity, more than 3 million people have been affected.
“This is all very stressful and people are extremely frustrated since the water is still decreasing very slowly,” said Davor Majstorović on May 26. As coordinator of the Trauma Centre at Bread of St. Anthony, an MCC partner, he added, “Water surrounding houses is also very dirty and poses a direct threat to health.”
The United Nations has identified water, sanitation and hygiene items as high priorities, as well as food for children under 5 years old in displaced families.
MCC is working with partners in both countries on an emergency response.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina MCC is providing funds for a one-time distribution of food and water purification supplies to 5,000 people affected by flooding in Sarajevo. In northeastern Bosnia, 400 children under 3 years old will receive baby food, baby bottles and clean water. MCC is also sending containers of blankets, dried soup mix, hygiene kits, relief kits, infant care kits and school kits. The distributions will be carried out by MCC partners Merhamet and Bread of St. Anthony.
In Serbia, MCC partner Bread of Life Belgrade is providing 100 displaced families with emergency food packages as well as 100 baby supplies with food and diapers to children under 3 years old.
In addition to food and water concerns, landslides in Bosnia and Herzegovina have dislodged landmines from the civil war in the 1990s. Furthermore, many warning signs around the minefields have been washed away.
The fact that “there have already been victims in this past week from landmine detonation is a sad reminder of the remains of war still in the region,” said Ruth Plett, one of MCC’s representatives for East Europe. “It is difficult to consider all those now affected, many of whom experienced war and trauma within their lifetimes, now experiencing trauma, again, due to this disaster.” Plett and her spouse, Krystan Pawlikowski, also an MCC representative, are from Kitchener, Ont.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bread of St. Anthony is providing psychological support for displaced people living in temporary community shelters.
MCC is accepting funds for this effort. People may give online at donate.mcc.org/project/balkans-flooding, by calling 1-888-563-4676, or by sending donations to MCC U.S., 21 South 12th Street, Akron, PA 17501, specifying “Balkans Flooding.”