Commissioner Georgieva: You Are Not Alone

May 29, 2014 9:15 PM

kristinaThis Op-Ed by the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva, was originally published on portals Klix.ba, Buka.com and Bljesak.info.

I will never forget the scenes of the floods across Bosnia and Herzegovina: a deluge of rain of truly Biblical proportions which within a matter of hours wrought the greatest damage since the terrible wars of the 1990s. Now back in Brussels after my visit, my heart is full of sorrow for those of you who have lost relatives, homes and livelihoods, but also admiration for the solidarity, courage and kindness you have shown throughout this catastrophe – and for the strong determination to mobilise more help for the thousands of people who need it.

It was in Orasje that an old woman made me feel the enormity of this tragedy: for her and for so many others this is a crisis erupting right where the wounds of war are still healing. She was evacuated from her home and was taking shelter in the local high school. She had already lost her home once to the war, and now she has lost it again. “All I want is to die on the land where I was born”, she told me. “But alone I won’t be able to reclaim it from the water”.

I hugged her – and told her she was not alone. “Niste sami”: this was the message I wanted to deliver to her and to the thousands of people overwhelmed by the worst floodwaters in more than 120 years.

The day after the floods hit the Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina made a request for assistance through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU began what has become one of the largest scale emergency operations in our history. From our Emergency Response Coordination Centre in Brussels we got the assistance moving efficiently on many fronts and levels.

Sixteen EU Member States  offered emergency assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and four more bilaterally, with 358   rescuers having arrived. So far EU teams have rescued more than 1700 people thanks to helicopters, motorized boats and specialized teams. Twelve high-capacity pumping modules have been working in the country as well as a further 85 pumps and 14 water purification modules. In addition, 11 000 water purification tablets, 14 000 blankets and more than a thousand tents have been channelled through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to the flood victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I commend the dedication of EUFOR – the personnel based in BiH swung into action and boosted the rescue efforts, working alongside the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. EUFOR’s airlifts, air drops of food and supplies were crucial for saving lives.

All of this huge effort involving Europeans from all over the continent was the EU at its best – working together to move fast to help others.

The immediate emergency is not entirely over and that is why the EC has announced that €3 million in humanitarian aid will be released to help the most vulnerable people in BiH and Serbia to address their most immediate needs – food, health and sanitation, first aid and shelter. Drying equipment for houses, bedding for families – funds for these things and others will be channelled through the Red Cross/Red Crescent and other partner organisations in BiH.

We are also tackling the medium term challenges. €62 million has been mobilised for this from the EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). The money will be available by the end of June and will include support for getting public infrastructure – such as schools and social care services – operating, as well as providing basic equipment for enterprises and farms to restart their activities.

I want to reassure you that the EU is in this for the long haul. It will take years BiH to recover.  We are making our plans based on this reality. Therefore for the medium to long term, we will make further IPA money available in the period 2014-2020. The amount will be decided on the basis of a Comprehensive Needs Assessment. The work on the assessment starts this week and we hope to have the report by June 18.

As the flood waters recede and the crisis moves from emergency to recovery and rehabilitation, there is a massive job ahead for all of us. But I want to assure you that the EU will stick with you. Niste sami – you are not alone.

ST

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