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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Cold Wave DREF Operation No. MDRBA002 Final Report

Bosnia and Herzegovina
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GLIDE No. CW-2009-000024-BIH

The International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is a source of un-earmarked money created by the Federation in 1985 to ensure that immediate financial support is available for Red Cross Red Crescent response to emergencies. The DREF is a vital part of the International Federation's disaster response system and increases the ability of national societies to respond to disasters.

Summary: CHF 166,370 (USD 144,027 or EUR 110,798) was allocated from the International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) on 23 January 2009 to support the national society in delivering assistance to some 1,000 families.

Extremely low temperatures hit parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2009, followed by lack of gas supplies worsening the conditions among the most vulnerable people. In responding to the situation the DREF operation was implemented from 23 January 2009 to 22 February 2009. During the operation the National Society distributed food parcels, blankets, wooden briquettes and stoves to 1,000 families. The Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina successfully completed the planned activities. People reached were satisfied with the services provided, especially with the quality of goods.

The Netherlands Red Cross through its Silent Emergency Fund1 has contributed 15,000 Euros to the DREF in replenishment of the allocation made for this operation. The major donors to the DREF are the Irish, Italian, Netherlands and Norwegian governments and ECHO. Details of all donors can be found on

Out of the allocation CHF 45,527 will be reimbursed to the International Federation's DREF since some of the procured goods were less expensive than budgeted.

The situation

Extremely low temperatures hit parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2009, followed by lack of gas supplies worsening the conditions among particularly affected and vulnerable population groups. The number of people severely affected amounted to some 5,200 families or 10,000 people according to information from Red Cross branches. The lack of natural gas, firewood and alternative fuel for heating were the most serious problems for people in the affected areas.

The most affected regions were the cities of Sarajevo, Zenica, Zvornik and parts of eastern Herzegovina, including Sokolac, Foca and Gacko, where some villages were completely cut off from the rest of the country due to snow drifts. In Gacko and Sokolac the temperature fell to 25 degrees below zero, and in most of the affected areas the authorities proclaimed a state of emergency in order to get the situation under control. The situation after the period of extreme cold was for many compounded by ice storm, leading to high risks of injuries, affecting elderly people in particular, preventing them from leaving their homes regardless of their situation.

In Sokolac, Foca and Zvornik several hundred families were affected by very low temperatures. They were facing severe food shortage and were almost out of firewood. Water in households was frozen making it difficult to prepare food. In the townships of Lucavica and Dobrinje in Sarajevo many were facing similar hardships. Normal water supply was restored after some time, but food shortages continued to cause problems as affected people spent all their money on alternative heating. Also municipal institutions were affected by lack of heating and frozen pipelines.

Owing to the seriousness of the situation authorities requested people to reduce their fuel consumption. The price of electricity in Bosnia and Herzegovina is among the highest in Europe, and as large parts of the population are unemployed and very poor many of the affected people had little or no capacity to cover additional expenses. Consequently many depleted their financial resources. One case of death was reported in Doboj, where a person froze to death because he had no means to acquire heating materials.

Furthermore prices of heaters were very high when the cold wave hit and tripled during the period with low temperatures. According to field information stoves and electric heaters were also sold out, and although new import took place the price level increased dramatically. According to evaluations by international community representatives, a longer-term solution to the situation was unlikely to be found quickly. Although temperatures rose at some locations in February, weather forecasts indicated that temperatures would become extremely low once more, thus stressing the need to instantly respond. Some complaints were raised by people affected claiming that the government did not succeed in meeting their most urgent needs.