Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Rebuilding lives and communities after May floods

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Floods in Obrenovac, Serbia. Photo: UNCT Serbia

16 July 2014 - There is a pressing need in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to make rapid progress on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people as a result of the disastrous floods in May, said UN development chief Helen Clark during her visit to Brussels for the international donor conference in support of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After the devastating floods, a UN Team of Experts , which was deployed for the first time of history of Serbia, arrived in the country within 36 hours’ time. The so called United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) is on stand by to respond imminently when a member country is struck by a large natural disaster and needs urgent assistance.

UN expert team Photo UNCT SerbiaThe team, consisting of experts with long-term experience in the field of assessing the impacts of natural disasters occurring in all parts of the world, worked closely with the Serbian Ministry of the Interior and the European Union Civil Protection Team. They provided a comprehensive assessment of impacts, defined priorities of the recovery, remediation of the consequences of floods, environmental protection, restoration of roads and future risk reduction.

“The assessments paint a full picture of the work which needs to be done for human development, to rebuild infrastructure and productive capacities, and, very important, to build back better and create greater systemic resilience to such major weather events in future”, said Ms Clark in her statement at the conference.

The geography and climate of the two countries make both very susceptible to flooding.  The May floods were exceptional, testing existing control systems beyond endurance.  

Quoting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's message for the conference, Ms Clark said: “severe and unpredictable weather patterns are leading to increased and often more extreme flooding throughout the world”.  

“It is vital therefore that disaster risk reduction measures are given a very high priority in the response to these floods, and that we also see this in the context of adaptation to climate change”, said Ms Clark. “My key message today is: in the international response now to the needs of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, we must prioritise the measures which will protect communities and vital infrastructure and productive capacities for the future.  Sustainable development requires sustained development which is not continually badly disrupted by setbacks which can be anticipated and mitigated.”

As a result of the flooding, more than 50 people died in the three countries combined and over 70,000 were evacuated. Not only floods but also landslides caused serious problems and environmental hazards.

“In conclusion", said Ms Clark, "the United Nations system stands ready to play its full part in support of the short, medium, and long term recovery needs of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.  Our particular focus will be on sustaining human development and on support for disaster risk reduction. We look forward to working closely with both countries and all international partners to help Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to build back better from the devastating events of May this year.