Francine Uenuma 202.640.6810 (O), 202.450.9153 (M)
WESTPORT, Conn. (May 19, 2014) — As waters continue to threaten hundreds of thousands of civilians' homes, Save the Children has provided three boats, generators, pumps, boots, raincoats and sand bags to rescue teams headed for Bijeljina, in northeast Bosnia. The city is currently cut off because of the severe flooding, and the boats will be used to help evacuate citizens to safety.
Meanwhile, the aid agency has started to distribute essential relief to children and families affected by the floods, and continues to assess and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, including street children and poorer – mainly Roma – communities in some of the worst-hit areas.
Four days of ongoing and heavy rain have caused the worst floods in this region's history, affecting over 1.5 million people. Around nineteen people have been confirmed dead in Bosnia & Herzegovina and in Serbia, while dozens of landslides have destroyed homes and continue to hamper rescue efforts. The Serbian city of Obrenovac, where hundreds of homes have already been flooded, is being evacuated amidst fears that the damn may break. Despite water slowly receding in some areas, there are also strong concerns that the river Sava may break its banks, which would affect the whole of northern Bosnia as well as the Serbian cities of Sabac, Sremska, Mitrovia and Belgrade. The Mine Action Centre in Bosnia & Herzegovina has warned that the floods and landslides are likely to have moved the mines and destroyed or washed away warning signs, which represents a very serious and long term threat for communities living here.
Save the Children is working in close cooperation with the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Civilian Defense of Republika Srpska, to respond to the most urgent needs, with a special focus on the most vulnerable children and families. As flood waters have reached the second floor of apartment buildings and hundreds of thousands remain without power, the search for missing people has intensified in both countries. "We are especially concerned about children's safety and welfare, given how vulnerable they are during floods like these" said Andrea Zeravcic, Save the Children's Director in Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia. "We are focusing in particular on children and families living in makeshift homes or on the street, who do not have any shelter against the rains."
"In cooperation with the authorities, other partners and local NGOs, we are providing vital relief and emergency supplies to the most affected families at this critical time, while trying to reach some areas that have been cut off by the floods. Over the next few days, we hope to scale up our response to help many more vulnerable children and families who have lost everything in this disaster", Zeravcic concludes.
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