Thursday, 23 October 2014

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UN to provide first financial assistance to Serbia

Press conference

10 June 2014. The United Nations in Serbia has received a US $ 1.8 million in response to the floods that have hit Serbia in mid-May. The funding comes from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in order to provide support to the people from areas affected by the floods.

”All UN agencies in Serbia have pulled together on the basis of the UNDAC report and within a week, the UN headquarters has responded by providing $1.8 million dollars," says Ms. Irena Vojáčková -Sollorano, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Serbia, referring to an assessment report made by a team of UN experts. "This is an immediate support and in the days to come, we will keep on supporting the Government in the reconstruction and restoration of people’s livelihoods.” 

The initial $1.8 million are allocated for the activities of the UN Country Team in Serbia and will be implemented together with the Government and the NGO sector. This contribution will be used to fund forthcoming projects of five UN agencies - UNDP, UNICEF, IOM, WHO and WFP.

“The assistance of UN Country Team in Serbia has been extremely valuable throughout the crisis. Their expertise and support continue to help us alleviate the consequences of the floods“, Marko Blagojević, the coordinator of the Government of Serbia said at a joint press conference with the UN in Belgrade.

Last week the Government of Serbia asked the UN, the European Union and the World Bank to proceed to finalize an assessment of priorities and financial needs in the recovery effort, the so called PDNA (Post Disaster Needs Assessment). The floods that hit Serbia and neighbouring countries in mid-May, are the biggest natural disaster in the region in 120 years, which cost 34 persons their lives and displaced 30,000 people in Serbia alone.

The United Nations responded immediately to the floods, with humanitarian aid and within 24 hours experts from UNDAC (the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination) were on the ground, to assess the damages.

Their report based on their visit 18-31 May was handed over last week to the Government of Serbia. The experts warn of potential health problems associated with stagnant water and blocked sewage systems.

”When the sewage system is not functioning there are of course health issues, which need to be further assessed”, says UNDAC team leader Michael Elmquist. ” The sewage systems can´t be operational until you get rid of the water. It will remain a problem until the Sava river goes further down.”

The experts are also worried about potential dangers to the environment, including danger of leakage of chemical waste. Industries and businesses have had to close due to the flooding and as a consequence tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs, at least temporarily.

”Serbia is confronted, with serious challenges,” says Mr. Elmquist. ”Infrastructure has been seriously damaged so just restoring transporation throughout the country is going to be a major financial problem. But in addition to that there is a lot of people, who are personally affected by the disaster; people whose houses have been flooded; people whose houses have been destroyed by landslides or by the flash floods and farmers who have lost all of this year´s harvest.”

In addition to the 1.8 million dollar provided by CERF, UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and cultural Organization) has allocated USD 50,000 for schools rehabilitation.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has so far provided USD 100,000 as immediate support the Government of Serbia in its relief efforts.

According to the Red Cross 1.2 million people or 22% of the population of Serbia have been affected by the floods. It estimates the cost of recovery efforts to be $1.2 billion.

The French Government has offered to host a pledging conference in the beginning of July for the three Balkan countries hit by the floods, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia.



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