Europe continues to do battle against extreme weather, as plunging temperatures and heavy snowfall sweep through large parts of the continent. The cold snap that has killed 480 people to date – about a quarter in eastern Europe, and many of them homeless – shows no signs of stopping, while hundreds of Eastern European villages remain cut off because of cold and snow.
Situation: The Serbian government declared a state of emergency on Feb. 5, due to heavy snowfall and very low temperatures. Before the declaration, 37 municipalities in Serbia had declared emergencies due to impassable roads and challenges in providing food supplies, medicine and electricity to remote areas.
Heavy snowfall and extremely low temperatures (-28 degrees Centigrade in some parts) led to 13 deaths, with an estimated 70,000 people in remote villages severely affected. The government advised to keep all schools closed until February 17.
The energy suppliers issued a public appeal to conserve energy to prevent any restrictions as extremely low temperatures are seriously jeopardizing the energy system and supply of energy and fuel. The power company announced that it can meet the present level of demand for a week longer. Freezing weather is expected to continue until the end of February, and the government is already preparing for the big melt and possible floods.
elderly couple in Serbia
CWS response: CWS and partners, the Center for Youth Integration, known as CYI; Branko Pesic Primary School; and Red Cross Smederevo are working to protect the most vulnerable population from near-freezing temperatures. The CYI has intensified outreach work to remove street children from the streets and accommodate them in drop-in centers or in day care centers, both operating under emergency circumstances and open 24 hours.
The CYI sent an appeal to companies and citizens to join the action of acquiring the necessary resources for most vulnerable population: warm clothes and shoes, canned food, fortified milk, diapers and necessary medications. Government authorities, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, had already provided 2,000 canned food items, hygiene materials and warm clothing.
The CYI reached its full accommodation capacity (60 children in a drop-in center and 40 in a day-care center). As a result, other children, starting from Feb. 8, will be referred to Branko Pesic School, where workshops for children will be organized throughout the day and hot meals provided.
The Red Cross Smederevo is a member of the city’s emergency team so coordinated action is taking place between the city and the Red Cross. The Red Cross to date has placed 55 vulnerable people in its house at Mala Krsna, many homeless, and single mothers with children, and has secured meals, beds, blankets and bedding to newcomers. The Red Cross is extensively touring villages around Smederevo to access the needs and deliver 300 food packages. The night duty was introduced in Mala Krsna because of the increased number of users seeking refuge and help during the night.
Other CWS responses – CWS will provide 200 warm blankets to Roma children and their families living in settlements; CWS will provide hot meals to Roma children who will be referred to the Branko Pesic school; CWS will accommodate 70 vulnerable people in the Smederevo area in Red Cross-run residence in Mala Krsna and provide housing and meals.
CWS will also purchase 300 food packages for the affected population in rural areas. The packages contain oil, sugar, flour, beans, rice, salt, spices, vitamin supplements and pasta.
Starting from Jan. 23, Moldova has experienced extremely cold weather conditions, with temperatures averaging between -12 and -16°С. The recent forecast issued by the national hydro-meteorological service indicates that the cold temperature will stay at low levels, reaching possibly -27°С.
Assisting severely affected localities in the northern part of the country is difficult because snow measures are so high; at least 12 villages do not have electricity. The most affected are people living alone, especially the elderly and families with many children. The Ministry of Education reports that 248 schools are closed in the country due to cold conditions and high levels of snow, most of which are located in northern cities.
The government has mobilized and has been providing assistance to the most vulnerable people in the country; 17 tents have been installed by Civil Protection and Emergency Situations Service around the country for heating, provision of snacks and hot drinks, which serve about 2,200 to 2,400 persons daily.
According to the request for assistance received from the government, there is a lack of warm clothing to distribute to the most vulnerable, and lack of fuel to ensure functioning of the support tents for the coming two weeks.
In Moldova, CWS will provide 500 warm blankets to the most affected population.
Serbia: $10,000 for food/lodging for 70 persons at Mala Krsna Center; $10,300 for blankets/meals for at-risk children; Moldova: $8,500 for blankets and distribution costs; and $1,200 for CWS administration costs.
How to help:
Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts in the U.S. and around the world may be made online, sent to your denomination, or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515 (Appeal #6638, Eastern Europe Weather).
Church World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.