One year after catastrophic floods, Bosnia and Herzegovina takes stock and looks ahead

May 12, 2015

Photo: UNDP BiH

Sarajevo -- A year ago this week, heavy rains in Bosnia and Herzegovina caused the worst floods in 120 years. While an extensive rehabilitation effort continues today, including construction of houses, infrastructure, public facilities, health care centres and schools, longer-term disaster resilience initiatives like landslide prevention programmes and new flood prevention measures are in progress.

The disaster affected a quarter of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and approximately one million of its 3.8 million people. Nearly half of local governments were hit by the floods, where urban, industrial, and rural areas were completely submerged under water, cut off and without electricity, potable water, or communications for days.

Among other partners, a UN-implemented EU floods recovery programme (43.2 million Euro) and a UN Floods Recovery Programme “Danas za nas” (US $22.6 million), provided support to recovery efforts primarily in the eastern and central parts of the country bordering Croatia and Serbia.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina is still prone to natural disasters. We learned the lesson and are already working together with all stakeholders on building resilience and increasing preparedness. While natural disasters cannot be avoided, loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure can,” said Cihan Sultanoglu, UNDP Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Ms. Sultanoglu gave a keynote speech at a conference today in Sarajevo which brought together high-level representatives of governments at all levels with international community and civil society to take stock of lessons learned and look ahead twelve months after the rain.

Mijo Kresic, Deputy Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed gratitude to all the donors who assisted BiH citizens and authorities in emergency and recovery phases following the floods.

“Now, prevention measures need to be strengthened, and additional efforts invested in capacity building, training and equipping the protection and rescue services,” Kresic said in his address. “This is a continuous process and a task we need to fulfill to raise the level of security, to protect people's lives, property, and infrastructure in the event of a new disaster. Our response then needs to be prompt and efficient.”

To date, substantial progress has been made through the flood recovery initiatives launched to re-establish normal living conditions, save jobs, support local economies and increase disaster resilience in more than 60 communities. With the help of the UN, more than 1,500 houses and 100 public buildings have been rehabilitated, with total of over 4,000 dwellings and 150 buildings to be rehabilitated before the winter. Immediate livelihoods support that included cash-for-work projects, distribution of animal feed, seeds and greenhouses reached more than 8,000 people. Grants were given to roughly 60 small and medium-sized businesses and 300 farmers to re-launch their production.

Moving from recovery to disaster risk reduction and resilience building, the UN is now spearheading initiatives to support landslide risk management and flood risk mitigation in BiH. The first country-level assessment of the landslide risk for the housing sector is being implemented with EU funding, and new technical and engineering measures are being put in place in vulnerable locations. New flood prevention activities in ten municipalities will help protect more than 3,200 households, a dozen public facilities, 1,200 hectares of land, all of which will directly benefit 11,500 people.

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