Background: More than three million people were affected by record-breaking rainfall in the Balkans in May 2014, which caused the worst flooding the region has ever seen, and killed over 50 people. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, nearly one million people were evacuated from homes and forced to stay in collective centers or other temporary shelters, because many homes were rendered permanently uninhabitable by the flooding. Tens of thousands of people in Croatia were also affected by the devastating floods when houses and farms were completely destroyed. In Bosnia, at least 4,000 landslides hampered relief efforts, with some landslides remaining active and dangerous for weeks after the rains stopped. Floods and landslides also shifted landmines remaining from the decades-old conflict. In total, the flooding resulted in $2.7 billion in damage throughout Bosnia.
In July and early August 2014, additional heavy rains caused further flooding and landslides in Bosnia, and caused new alerts for the already flood-damaged areas in Croatia near the Sava River.
Surveying the Damage: To respond to this unprecedented level of flooding in the region, International Medical Corps deployed an Emergency Response Team (ERT) to Bosnia on May 22, 2014 and immediately began meeting with authorities, humanitarian partners, and key stakeholders; while conducting assessments of the damages and working to meet the immediate needs of communities affected by the flooding.
In all, International Medical Corps’ ERT examined the condition of 27 health facilities across 13 flood-affected municipalities and created a consolidated report regarding their condition and rehabilitation needs. This report was shared with national and international authorities, informing response plans. International Medical Corps’ ERT then worked with these partners to plan how they could support the restoration of flood-affected health centers and their related health care delivery systems.
During the assessment visits in Maglaj and Doboj, International Medical Corps’ ERT found that the basement levels and 1st floor of two municipal health centers were severely damaged by the water, including diagnostic equipment essential to providing appropriate care for patients. The Domaljevac and Samac health centers saw their entire ground floor flooded. Because the Maglaj, Domaljevac and Samac municipalities have no functioning hospitals where patients can seek medical diagnostic services, they were listed as priority for rehabilitation. Many other smaller rural health centers also got flooded, and as a result, patients had to travel to distant health facilities that were unaffected by the flooding and could support their health needs.
International Medical Corps’ ERT Leader, Marin Tomas warned that, “the increased burden on these health centers has increased waiting time for patients to get access to medical diagnostics to several days or months. Patient transport costs to distant health facilities to get basic screens such as X-ray, ultrasound diagnostics, ECG or laboratory tests will soon exceed value of diagnostic equipment purchase if the situation is not resolved quickly”.
Building Back Better: In partnership with the Red Cross Society of Bosnia, and additional input from partner organization Luftfahrt ohne Grenzen (LoG)/ Wings of Help, International Medical Corps assisted under-resourced Ministries of Health to restore health services in affected municipalities. Essential medical equipment and staff training was supplied to damaged health facilities as determined by International Medical Corps’ assessment, and included Maglaj, Samac, and Domaljevac as priority target areas of support, with provision of equipment to some other health facilities determined at a later date.
In Croatia, International Medical Corps also provided a supply of new medical equipment for Djurici/Racinovci Health Center to replace those damaged by the flooding. The nearly $10,000 in equipment will help restart health services greatly needed by the affected community. International Medical Corps’ team helped ensure that all health facility personnel were properly trained on use of the new equipment in both Croatia and Bosnia.
International Medical Corps and LoG’s partnership also provided a fully equipped ambulance vehicle to Maglaj Health Center, which suffered significant damage in the flooding. This equipment enabled the health center to restore its emergency transport services for the coverage population of nearly 20,000.
Upon request of the Ministry of Health of Federation Bosnia and Herzegovina, International Medical Corps also supported the creation of a special webpage aimed to provide information on flooding and serve as an information resource on health, hygiene, and sanitation in the wake of the natural disaster.
Providing Food to Disaster-Stricken Communities: To bolster support to communities in need, International Medical Corps secured over €1 million in food and relief items donated by long-time partner, LoG/Wings of Help.
Approximately 100 tons of children’s food from organic sources came from reputable manufacturers, such as Hipp, Hassia and Milupa, and was sent to Bosnian municipalities in need, while an additional aid convoy was routed to flood-affected communities in Croatia and Serbia. Distribution of these assistance items was facilitated by International Medical Corps’ partnership with the Red Cross Societies of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. Approximately 7,000 children benefited from three meals a day for one month as a result of the assistance provided by LoG and International Medical Corps.
More heavy rainfall and flooding in June and the beginning of August caused further damage in some municipalities, and affected families are again in need of support. International Medical Corps’ logistics experts are currently facilitating the delivery of the relief items, again with the support of the Red Cross Society of Bosnia.
Conclusion: Without the support of International Medical Corps and funders like GlobalGiving, many people in areas that suffered from the effects of massive flooding would still be in need of health services, children’s food, and other humanitarian assistance. Thanks to the rapid response of the International Medical Corps’ ERT and its close coordination with governmental, international, and local partners on the ground, thousands in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia were supported in their time of need. While this project is fully funded and complete, International Medical Corps remains committed to responding where disaster strikes by ensuring a lasting positive impact is made in affected communities.
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