On May 15, 2014, a national state of emergency was declared in Serbia. Unprecedented rainfall over a three-day period caused eight of the main rivers in the country to overflow their banks – resulting in massive flooding and landslides, and forcing more than 30,000 from their homes.
By the time the rains had stopped and the flood waters subsided, 51 people had lost their lives and more than 1.5 million people – 20% of the country’s entire population – had been impacted by these floods.
Nearly 52,000 people were now temporarily unemployed, 110,000 households were cut off from the electricity supply, and an estimated 125,000 individuals had fallen below the poverty line as a result of this catastrophe.
A Recovery Needs Assessment (RNA), supported jointly by the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) with support from Luxembourg, and the World Bank Group, placed the total value of the effects of the disaster at nearly €2 billion – more than 4% of Serbia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the wake of this disaster, the Serbian economy is expected to contract by 0.4% in 2014 – in contrast to the 0.5% growth projected before the floods struck.
Among those sectors hit the hardest in the country were the energy and agriculture sectors, while flood protection infrastructure suffered as well – leading to increased concerns of power and food shortages and leaving the country even more exposed to subsequent flooding.
In response to this situation, the World Bank Group is working with the government of Serbia to address some of the country’s most pressing needs in the wake of this disaster. An Emergency Recovery Loan (ERL) has recently been approved in the amount of €232 million – the second largest loan ever approved by the World Bank Group in Serbia. This loan, representing just part of the nearly €1 billion pledged by 60 countries and 23 international organizations, focuses on delivering support to priority sectors affected by the floods.
“This emergency recovery loan will help Serbia meet some of the critical needs following the disastrous floods of May 2014, and focuses on the hardest hit sectors,” says Tony Verheijen, World Bank Country Manager for Serbia.
The loan is designed to help a variety of key areas impacted by the recent floods. The objective of the loan is to help restore the country’s power systems to ensure domestic demand can be met, protect the livelihoods of farmers who were affected at the crucial start of the growing season, ensure the protection of those severely impacted by the floods, and improve Serbia’s capacity in responding effectively to ensuing disasters.
The power that will be imported as a result of this loan, along with improvements in energy conservation, and the restoration of strategic assets, will help offset some of the damages in the energy sector – estimated at €488 million – and close a power supply gap expected over the winter.
Financing and resources will also be made available to address the nearly €230 million in losses suffered by farmers throughout the country – with the flood rendering some 12,000 hectares of crop area useless for agricultural production and causing more than €90 million in lost income from damaged crops.
Further to helping the country recover from the immediate challenges posed by this disaster, the ERL is also helping to increase Serbia’s long-term resiliency to subsequent floods – introducing complementary goals of preventing the next flood or mitigating the impacts if a flood does occur.
“In addition to meeting post-disaster needs, the project also supports flood prevention by financing emergency repairs to dykes and levees and improves disaster risk management practices,” notes Verheijen
The loan is supporting the urgent rehabilitation of flood protection and drainage control infrastructure, and strengthening the technical capacity of government agencies for improved flood prevention and management.
The long-term effectiveness of these preventative measures is also being bolstered in both the energy and agriculture sectors. Investment grants are being made available to help increase agricultural competitiveness, while energy-efficient measures will be implemented throughout the country to promote energy savings, reduce energy consumption, and avoid potential blackouts.
This focus on both short-term and long-term solutions is helping the country recover today and rebuild for tomorrow.