Serbia: Emergency Preparedness & Response
People in Need helps people in emergencies, during times of war as well as in the aftermath of natural disasters. In 2014, PIN supported populations in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina affected by extreme floods. The floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia took dozens of lives and caused extensive material losses. People in Need sent experienced coordinators to the flooding sites, put out a call for donations and distributed material assistance. Additionally, PIN’s experts advised families affected by the flooding on how to deal with its impact.
Between 2015 and 2016, Serbia became a transit country for many refugees fleeing from Syria and Iraq to Europe. PIN mobilised to respond to the great influx and need of people fleeing their home countries through Serbia. The main aim of our rapid intervention was to help people cope during times of hardship, to provide for their basic needs and pass on our know-how to local workers who could continue to assist in mitigating the consequences of humanitarian crises for the future.
Emergency refugee aid
During the refugee crisis of 2015, many of the refugees began to take the route to Western Europe leading through the western Balkan countries. In cooperation with the Czech Team volunteer organisation “Pomáháme lidem na útěku“ which reacted immediately to the local needs, People in Need focused on support to the most vulnerable refugees in Serbia, first at the border in Berkasovo/Bapska and, after closure of the border, in Adaševci and Šid. Volunteers were active in the field from September 2015. They distributed food parcels, tea and warm clothes, but also helped the local administration with crowd management, camp building and, latterly, began to organize the freetime activities for children, assisted during medical checkups and performed organisational work in the camps. PIN supported the volunteers’ activities mainly on a logistic and administrative level, provided them accommodation, food and material aid, translations of documents and communication with local institutional actors in the field. Furthermore, PIN focused on coordination among the various humanitarian organisations, mainly on a local level. On a national level, PIN was an active member of the coordination group which is headed by UNHCR. PIN also supported a local organization (HCIT), which provided protection to the most vulnerable persons. In April 2016, after the West – Balkan route was closed, PIN and the Czech volunteer organization scaled down their activities in Serbia.
In September 2015, PIN began working in Macedonia, at the Gevgelja (Vinojug) transit centre, located on the border with Greece. PIN supported a local organisation called La Strada Opengate, which offers help to families, mothers with children and other vulnerable people. PIN provided direct assistance to the transit centre cleaning work team, whose aim was to prevent the breakout and spread of diseases. In April 2016, after the Balkan route was closed, the work of PIN in Macedonia was complete.
At the beginning of 2016, together with People in Peril, PIN started supporting the work of volunteers on Lesbos. Volunteers perform night patrolling of certain parts of the island and helping with the safe disembarkation of people arriving in boats and on rafts. Volunteers have been also clearing up the island by removing discarded life-jackets and rafts. From February 2016, PIN and other organizations turned its focus to helping people in the camps in northern Greece, mainly in Idomeni. We assist volunteers in material aid distribution and in providing psychological and medical help.
In May 2014, flooding hit some parts of Serbia and also its neighbour – Bosnia and Herzegovina. Massive flooding claimed nearly 50 victims in both countries and affected around 1 million people. Meteorologists have stated that this was the worst case of flooding in Bosnia and Herzegovina in more than 120 years. The extent of damages exceeded the damage done by the 2013 flood in the Czech Republic in all respects. PIN reacted to this situation by opening a public collection account and sending coordinators with direct experience from the Czech flood situations. PIN provided mostly material aid. 1500 families in Serbia and 1000 families in Bosnia received hygiene and disinfection supplies, buckets, brushes, gloves and other work aids. In Serbia, material aid went to one elementary and one nursery school; both of them had been seriously damaged. In Bosnia, eight teams equipped with pressure washers spent three weeks cleaning flooded houses. In both countries, PIN shared know-how from their experience with floods in the Czech Republic and distributed brochures with information on how to deal with the impact of floods.