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Floods in Serbia: a report from the field

© UNICEF/SWZK00308/Flood Defence, Secanj
Flooding in Secanj municipality

Background

On 20 April, as a result of heavy rains and melting snow in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains, the river Tamis on the Romania/Serbia border broke its banks, flooding Jasa Tomic village in Serbia, killing two people. The village, in Secanj municipality, is in the eastern part of Vojvodina province and has almost 3,000 inhabitants, 60% of them elderly. It is one of the poorest municipalities in the country, and 40% of its inhabitants are dependent on agriculture for their income.

Around 300-400 people were evacuated overnight and accommodated with relatives and friends in Krajisnik village; 91 persons in primary school in Sutjeska village; 20 in a primary school in Secanj and 40 in a hotel in Secanj. The evacuation was organised by Civil Protection and the Army. There are three collective centres in the area where, by 21 April, almost 700 people were accommodated. Local people have strengthened the dikes. The municipality received food donations from private donors to provide 700 hot meals on 21 April. The Red Cross soup kitchens supplied meals on 22 April.

According to the most recent assessment on 22 April by the Government and the national Red Cross, immediate needs include blankets, mattresses, jerry cans, boots and raincoats, as well as hygiene supplies.

Coordination has been good between local authorities, civil protection, Red Cross, Army, Police, Health centres and the local population.

Current situation

The rain has stopped in Serbia/Vojvodina, but it is still raining in Romania and more rain is expected. The flooding in Serbia continues as the water level rises, and it is estimated that the flooding could eventually extend into Montenegro.

According to the Civil Protection authorities of Serbia, the municipalities of Plandiste, Zitiste, Nova Crnja, Secanj, Alibunar and Vrsac are in danger of being flooded in the coming days, with as many as 25,000 likely to be affected. In Plandiste and Zitiste municipalities there are already 2000 people in local collective centres and over 1500 people accommodated with relatives or friends. Another 700 people have been evacuated from Medja village, and have been relocated 10km away to Srpski Itebej.

909 houses are flooded and 120 have been destroyed. Most local houses are made of clay bricks, so further damage is likely.

There is no electricity or clean drinking water in the area. Water wells are flooded and the water network system is polluted and unsafe for drinking. Military water cistern trucks are distributing clean water to the population; Red Cross water tanks arrived on 22 April.

The railway, bridges and road from Vrsac to Zrenjanin are endangered by rising river levels.

The national Red Cross society has emptied its reserves of food and emergency supplies.

CHF 100,000 has been allocated from the International Federation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to begin a relief operation, no other funds have been pledged yet. Most  international agencies in the country do not have emergency or humanitarian assistance funds.

According to the most recent assessment on 22 April by the Government and the national Red Cross, immediate needs include blankets, mattresses, jerry cans, boots and raincoats, as well as hygiene supplies.

Coordination has been good between local authorities, civil protection, Red Cross, Army, Police, Health centres and the local population.

UNICEF ACTION

To meet the needs of around 100 children (15 of them babies) accommodated in collective centres, UNICEF is:

-  Providing education and recreation kits and basic learning materials to help children continue with school activities;

- Activating local networks (school teachers and NGOs) to provide education and psychosocial assistance to affected children;

- Providing Hygiene Kits for babies (containing diapers, baby cream and sanitary napkins);

- Providing communication materials on: Infant Feeding in Emergencies, A Water Handbook, Urgent Pediatrics in Non-Hospital Conditions to relevant local authorities.

UPDATE FROM VESNA SAVIC-DJUKIC, UNICEF SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO

"We just got back from the field, particularly the most endangered villages: Secanj, Jasa Tomic and Sutjeska. The situation in villages affected by floods is extremely bad. Worse is expected tonight when a new wave will reach some 10 villages. Around 3,500 people have been evacuated, most of the houses are heavily damaged and most of them are under water. Six of the eight schools in the area are not operating. The two schools that are not affected by floods are being used to house evacuated people. There are 300 children in the collective centres and UNICEF has delivered hygiene kits for 15 babies and supplied breast-feeding mothers with communication material.

"Two School Directors laid out the situation: There are 2,200 children who will not be able to go to regular schools until the situation improves. UNICEF has delivered 100 education kits for the children who left their homes without any supplies. I was accompanied by the representative of the NGO "Friends of Children of Serbia" which has a good network of teachers who have been engaged in UNICEF projects, particularly Active Learning. The NGO has the capacity to support education activities until the schools get ready to resume regular services. We also met with the representatives of the crises headquarters and municipality authorities who provided us with the information on the most needed supplies (hygiene supplies, clothes, water, disinfectants, medicines).

"We also met with the representative of the Ministry of Education who briefed us on the status of damaged schools and the needs for repair.  All the schools will have to be disinfected and sanitised before pupils return to the school buildings. The Ministry of Education will try to ensure that municipal authorities arrange new accommodation for the evacuated people so that the two operational schools can resume regular classes as soon as possible."

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Angela Hawke, Communication Officer, UNICEF CEE/CIS, tel: (+4122) 909 5433, ahawke@unicef.org

 

 
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