Balkan flood victims will continue to need aid through winter, UN says

A couple of boys walking through the floodwaters in the Vruja settlement in Montenegro

7 January 2011 – Tens of thousands of people affected by the worst floods to hit Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighbouring Montenegro in decades will continue to need help during the winter months, warned the United Nations refugee agency, which has already provided assistance to several thousand people in the two Balkan nations.

The flash floods in early December led to 40,000 people being evacuated from their damaged or destroyed homes, including about 10,000 who were uprooted by violence in the region in the 1990s, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The agency has already provided food and non-food items, including blankets, mattresses, jerry cans, firewood and stoves, to some 2,400 flood victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the help of its partners on the ground.

Naveed Hussein, UNHCR Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that while floodwaters had receded in most areas, flood victims continue to ask for help. It is necessary to “keep a high level of attention on this vulnerable population. The extent of the problem does not allow us to neglect those affected,” he stated.

In Montenegro, UNHCR and a local non-governmental organization helped authorities move some 600 refugees to communal shelters after their settlements were threatened by floodwaters. The agency also provided sandbags to protect the settlements.

Katja Saha, UNHCR’s acting representative in Montenegro, said the displaced faced a new challenge during the winter and many settlements were under snow. The agency will continue to monitor the situation and contribute to relief efforts when possible.

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