human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Rebuilding after the floods in Serbia

Caritas Serbia works closely with local communities

In the severe floods and landslides that hit western and central Serbia in June 2020, more than 500 households suffered great damage. Thanks to the support of Caritas Poland and CRS (Catholic Relief Services), Caritas Serbia provided assistance to the most socially vulnerable households in the municipalities of Arilje, Osecina, Kosjeric and Ivanjica. The assistance was primarily intended for the households that suffered the most damage, single households, single parents, large families and families caring for people with disabilities.

Over the past few months, thanks to the help of CRS, Caritas Serbia has managed to provide cash cards for 141 households in the municipalities of Arilje, Osecina, Kosjeric and Ivanjica. In addition, Caritas provided the use of dryers for 15 households in Arilje. These dryers were donated to the Caritas network in Serbia by Caritas Germany after the floods in 2014, while this year CRS covered the costs of transportation to families in Arilje.

Thanks to the support of Caritas Poland, on the week of October 13, World Disaster Risk Reduction Day, the Caritas network in Serbia continued to provide assistance to the flooded population in the municipalities of Arilje and Osecina. Vouchers have been provided for the purchase of technical devices and household appliances for 43 families. Although more than 3 months have passed since the heavy rains and river overflows, the consequences of the destructive power of the rivers are still visible on the residential buildings. Due to social problems a large number of households are still not able to repair the damage on their own and return to normal life.

My old immobile mother, two children and I live in the house. Since my mother is immobile, I am forced to take care of her so that I am not employed but only work part-time. We are some 200-300 meters away from river Morava, but when the river started to rise, it took everything away in half an hour. The water level rose by a 1,5 m in that short interval, and the only thing we managed to save was some clothes. Reparation of the family house is not possible, since the house is old, and the damage is fatal. The only solution is the construction of a prefabricated facility, which is why local businessmen and the municipality of Arilje have launched an initiative to help our family, and we hope to get a new roof over our heads at the end of this or the beginning of next year. Certainly, when the house is built, it will be empty and it is up to us to equip it with furniture, appliances and other things for a normal life. We are grateful to Caritas for their support.

Sladjana Jovanović from Arilje.

Nikola does not want to be photographed and asks that his photos are not be published anywhere. As he says, he is ashamed of his poverty and the situation in which he found himself. He is unemployed, and the small prefabricated wooden house in which he lived was completely destroyed. Furniture, electrical appliances, clothes, even an album with pictures and memories were destroyed by the river. Since July, he has been sleeping in his former bedroom, but he has replaced the comfort of the bed with a thin layer of Styrofoam. Through an ironic smile, he comments that the only positive thing about sleeping on  concrete for three months is the fact that his hip no longer hurts. These days, he should start with the reconstruction of his house and he hopes that he will not experience the first winter frosts in such conditions.

Words of gratitude were expressed to the Caritas operators who participated in the distribution of aid during fieldwork. Gratitude for the donation given to them, but also gratitude for the support and the fact that they feel that in these difficult moments, vulnerable families are not alone and forgotten. During a natural disaster and distress, the feeling of the other person’s presence sometimes means more than material help.

The President of the Municipality of Arilje, Predrag Maslar, also thanked the Caritas network in Serbia for the help and support to the flooded families, wishing that the cooperation between Caritas and the Municipality of Arilje would continue, but in some better and happier circumstances.

The Caritas network in Serbia continues to provide assistance to people in need, as well as to raise public awareness of the importance of preserving the environment and being prepared in the event of natural disasters.