The Project HOPE field team traveled to northern Bosnia to assess needs for medicines and supplies following Cyclone “Tamara,” which brought the heaviest rainfall in 120 years of recorded weather measurements to the area from May 14-16, 2014. From our previous visit to Doboj, we thought we knew what to expect. We assumed we would see piles of destroyed homes, trees and trash on the side of the road, people working hard to clean and disinfect and a community working together to rebuild.
What we saw upon arrival to Odjak and Orashje, however, was even more hopeless. The towns are still under water and completely deserted. The water is still high enough that waders are necessary to walk around. The smell is unbearable, consisting of rotten fish, dead animals and contamination. Odjak, which had a population of about 21,000 people, now has about 10 guys working to clear out the water. It’s a ghost town. To add to the devastation, the heat of the weather is attracting mosquitoes and other bugs that will bring diseases and infections. Not only are the homes and buildings ruined, but so is the land.
Orashje, a town with a population of about 20,000 people, is also still under water. Here, we saw about 30 people actively trying to clear the water and take back their homes. We were able to reach a part of the city where the water had been removed. This is where the hospital is. We went inside to meet with the canton’s Minister of Health, Dr. Blaz Zuparic and the director of the hospital, Dr. Ruzica Vukic. Since this canton is the most heavily affected area, this meeting was designed to connect Project HOPE with the proper officials so that we could gather information on the current situation, what is needed in terms of medicines and medical supplies, what would be needed in the future for programs or volunteers and any other way Project HOPE could help the canton and the hospitals.
After the meeting, the field team left with a good understanding of what is needed and a better realization of the devastation of the flooding. The director emphasized the need for aid from psychiatrists to address the mental health trauma caused by the devastating flooding.
Over the coming days and weeks, I will be working closely with our staff in the United States to coordinate a first air shipment from Project HOPE’s distribution center in Winchester, Virginia to the region carrying the donated medicines and supplies that were requested. Project HOPE’s field team is also working to identify specific needs for medical volunteers in the affected region.
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