Grants help families in Bosnia and Serbia rebuild after massive floods

July 12, 2014

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  • A family in Serbia, whose home was destroyed by the floods, receives a cash grant that they plan to use for flooring materials. Photo: Mercy Corps

This week, we began distributions of cash grants to families in Bosnia and Serbia who were affected by recent flooding. With cash in hand, they can purchase exactly what they need — materials to rebuild their homes or essential household items like stoves, mattresses and kitchen sets — to begin their recovery.

After record-breaking floods ravaged communities in northeast Bosnia and northwest Serbia in May, Mercy Corps implemented early recovery efforts with the aim of jumpstarting the economy and helping the hardest-hit families restore their homes and livelihoods.

An estimated 1 million people in Bosnia and 9 million people in Serbia were affected by the disaster, which displaced thousands and devastated homes, infrastructure, crops and livestock across the region.

A home in Serbia shows the water level of the floods and a family's temporary living unit above. Photo: Mercy Corps

With funding from the European Commission (ECHO), we worked with our partner, the Center for Development and Support (CRP) — a local NGO founded by Mercy Corps in 2003 — to provide about $150 USD via electronic cash transfer to people in Bosnia, and $330 USD cash cards to families in Serbia. We are also distributing information about how to repair flood damage and mitigate risks like mold.

"This is the first assistance I ever received of any kind. I'm glad," explained Serbian Goran Jovanovic. "We've lost everything. So from this we'll see what to buy that's most needed for the house."

These cash grants are going 2,580 of the most vulnerable of the flood-affected families — those who lost their homes and belongings and have no means of income due to loss of land or severely damaged businesses. We are working closely with the local government to identify recipients.

New doors are delivered to a beneficiary in Serbia. Photo: Mercy Corps

"This is the right model for the distribution of aid to citizens — fully transparent, with clear criteria and evenly [distributed] to all parts of our community," said Dragen Milenkovic, a member of one of the local councils in Serbia.

The cards and cash transfers ensure a quick delivery to those in urgent need of funds. And when families purchase what they need locally, the spending provides an important financial stimulus for the local economy.

With local markets functioning again, more people will be able to move back into their homes and restart their businesses — and families across the region can begin to rebuild.