Flood Disaster in the Balkans: FOUR PAWS International disaster relief team has been deployed to Serbia
May 5, 2014 - A FOUR PAWS team of veterinarians and Logistics Specialists have arrived in the cities of Obrenovac and Bravec (south of Belgrade) to Provide medical care and food supplies to the companion and farm animals who are in need, as a result of the floods.
The floods in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia have caused devastating damage throughout the last few days. Dozens of people are reportedly missing or dead. Thousands of others were evacuated over the weekend, as their homes and farms were completely destroyed by the floods. Many bridges and streets were literally washed away. And now there is also the danger of epidemic, because the fresh water has been polluted and many carcasses are still drifting within it.
In the light of these facts, and an official request for help by the Serbian government, International animal protection organization, FOUR PAWS, has deployed two disaster relief teams to Serbia. FOUR PAWS is now the first animal protection organization on site. Their mission will be carried out in close cooperation with Serbia’s local disaster coordination.
Immediate care for farm animals
Dr. Amir Khalil, Lead Disaster Relief at FOUR PAWS, coordinated the 15-person mission team in the Balkans: “Our priority is to provide immediate care for farm animals. Many people have lost their homes and farms, some were completely destroyed.” The 20,000 inhabitants of the city of Obrenovac were affected severely, as 80% of the city was flooded. Whole flocks of sheep were carried away by the floods and many other animals remain stuck in the mud. “In such a situation, people don’t have any resources to support their animals. Our relief mission has a dual purpose as we are helping animals and humans at the same time,” adds Khalil.
Command Center in Belegrade
FOUR PAWS has set up a Command Center in Belgrade to organize food and medical supplies, and to optimally support their two operating teams. The veterinarians will treat injured farm animals (as well as provide other services such as deworming and/or vaccinations), and distribute food. The team will also bring companion animals, such as owned dogs (and strays) to their emergency facilities. FOUR PAWS has organized boats in order to provide fast and efficient help to these animals.
Food supplies to Bosnia
“We will also initiate the transport of food supplies to Bosnia. At the moment, a relief mission is too dangerous for our teams there, as the floods have also loosened land mines and there is a massive danger of explosions,” says Khalil.
Experienced disaster relief team
The experienced team around Amir Khalil has been providing active disaster relief for animals for many years now and has already been deployed to various disaster areas, such as Kosovo, the Gulf War in Baghdad, after the Tsunami in Sri Lanka, the catastrophic drought in the region of Samburu/Kenya, the floods in Pakistan, the Egyptian revolution, as well as the last mission after the typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
When a natural disaster strikes, a few days can make all the difference between life and death. FOUR PAWS’ rescue team provides quick and direct support – rescuing and evacuating animals, providing medical treatment and vaccinations, distributing food supplies and building emergency shelters. On site, FOUR PAWS works closely, supporting local aid agencies, and offering its expert knowledge in disaster relief.
FOUR PAWS returns rescued dogs to their owners
FOUR PAWS has successfully rescued some dogs from the restricted, and still flooded areas of the Balkans. The dogs have been treated medically and reunited with their owners. Most of the dogs were scared, even traumatized, and some appeared emaciated from having gone several days without food. However, once in the care of the FOUR PAWS team, the dogs quickly showed signs of improvement – and once in the arms of their owners - overwhelmingly touching moments for our team.
FOUR PAWS disaster relief team is on site in the Balkans
At the moment, the FOUR PAWS’ team, in conjunction with two Serbian volunteers, is on site in the flooded city of Obrenovac, nearly 25 miles from Belgrade, where thousands of farm animals (pigs, goats, sheep), as well companion animals (dogs, cats and strays), have been eagerly waiting to be rescued. Until now, the animals have all been left to fend for themselves.
The initial step for the FOUR PAWS team includes the provision of more than 140 cubic feet of hay to the affected areas.
Shortly upon arrival, the FOUR PAWS team visited one of Serbia’s evacuation sites in an effort to check on the health condition of the companion animals (dogs, cats and strays) who were being temporarily housed there. The team immediately provide the animals with food and clean water. The health of the animals will continue to be monitored daily by local veterinarians.
In the next couple of days, the FOUR PAWS disaster relief team will provide medical support and food for thousands of farm animals. While the rubber boats that FOUR PAWS provided, have already been strategized to reach those areas still flooded, the FOUR PAWS team is assessing additional ways to evacuate and shelter animals temporarily.
FOUR PAWS assists government in providing disease prevention education
After many animals have died in the floods, the risk of diseases is rising due to the quite high temperatures here. Our experienced FOUR PAWS disaster relief team was asked by the Serbian government for their expertise concerning disease prevention.
Moreover, the use of our mobile clinic in Zvecka remains high. Our vets are busy providing medicine and treating wounded and/or ill animals, vaccinating against rabies, and deworming. The affected people come from far away to see our vets, in order to provide the best care for their farm and companion animals.
Our rescue team is on duty providing food and fresh water for animals who cannot be brought to our clinic. Due to polluted water from the floods, many animals are suffering from diarrhea, which has to be treated immediately to stop further infections.
FOUR PAWS is still the only animal welfare organization working in the restricted areas.
On Sunday, we visited a large farm where several animals died as a result of the floods. Those which survivedhad been suffering without any food or fresh water. We have provided clean water, medicine and food for these animals and we will look after them over the next few days.
Yesterday, we received another 20 tons of food for farm and companion animals. We will continue to distribute this food to people with animals in need. We also received a donation of 1.2 tons of dog and cat food from the veterinary faculty from the University of Belgrade, as well as anti-rabies vaccines. We will continue to care for animals in need through our mobile clinic, and of course, use all of these supplies.
A FOUR PAWS Disaster Relief Team member speaks of his experiences
Many people who were affected by the severe floods in the Balkans had to leave their pets behind when they were evacuated from their homes.
Sebastian Jagschitz, who is a member of the FOUR PAWS Disaster Relief Team, spoke of his experiences:
“People had to leave their houses and flats very fast. While some were able to leave food for their pets, others had to leave immediately. The Four Paws Disaster Relief Team made daily trips, out on small rubber boats, to rescue the animals who were left behind.
Sometimes we received information about an animals’ whereabouts, sometimes an owner asked us to save their animals, but usually, we had no information and could only find the animals due to their barking or howling.
Some of our rescue missions were very challenging. We often had to climb trees into houses, and enter through windows and balconies. Most of the animals we found were scared and trembling, and in urgent need of rescue.
Once rescued, we immediately took the animals to our veterinarians so that they could receive medical treatment. We also fed them and gave them water. We then began the task of trying to find their owners.
The most memorable moments for us was watching people and their animals reunited, and seeing just how grateful they were to the FOUR PAWS team.”
People in Obrenovac still without water supply
Over the weekend, residents were granted free access to Obrenovac. While the town is now full of people who have returned to their properties to check on the damages, many of them are returning to homes completely destroyed. For many animals, this means that not only have they lost their homes, but now they will lose their families as well. The FOUR PAWS disaster relief team is now trying to find new homes for many displaced animals.
Aside from the loss of property and homes, there is still the issue of high danger of epidemic from the contaminated flood waters. In addition, while electricity and drainage have been restored, there is still no water supply to the area. Some areas are even still under water -- almost two weeks since the start of the flood.
Our FOUR PAWS disaster relief team is continuing to provide medical treatment for animals via our mobile clinics, and as well, we are still distributing food supplies to owners with animals in need. Many of the animals are suffering from diarrhea caused by drinking polluted water, so our veterinarians are remaining on high alert.
A long history in disaster relief missions
“Saving animals, helping people!” – this is the motto of FOUR PAWS Disaster Relief.
The priority of every relief operation, is to look after the farm animals, evacuate farm and companion animals, and to prevent the spread of disease.
We are now focusing on treating the parasites and diarrhea from which countless animals are suffering. Each day, more than 50 animals are treated in our mobile veterinary clinic. Today, we even performed a significant surgery, removing a tumor from an animal. Those animals who cannot come to our mobile clinic are provided with medical treatment by our vets, on site.
Today, we received more than 20 tons of food for farm animals and more than 5 tons of dog and cat food, which we then distributed to people affected by the floods.
Our rescue team has been traveling by foot and rubber boat in order to free animals from artificial islands, roofs and balconies. In order to provide food for animals in Bosnia and Croatia, a FOUR PAWS team organized efforts in the border zone, arranging food transports to those regions, which have also been severely affected by the floods.
FOUR PAWS reaches to the border with 25 tons of food
The small town of Jamena, near the border to Bosnia and Croatia, has also been severely damaged by the devastating floods and is – even two weeks after the floods – still a restricted area, with access only permitted through the authorization of Serbian officials.
Yesterday, our FOUR PAWS disaster relief team transported about 25 tons of food for farm and companion animals in the restricted area. Today, we have started to distribute the food to farmers and families with animals in need.
Due to the close proximity to the borders of Croatia and Bosnia, we are expecting transnational food transports as well by Croatian and Bosnian people who are crossing borders.
The majority of the rescued farm and companion animals have been temporarily sheltered in the nearby town of Sid.
Over the last two weeks, FOUR PAWS has provided animals in Serbia with almost 100 tons of food.
The FOUR PAWS disaster relief team has been on site continuously throughout this time, rescuing farm and companion animals who have been stranded, lost, homeless, injured, sick, and without food and water. Countless homes and farms are uninhabitable and many families won’t ever be able to return to them. Therefore, for many animals, not only have they lost their homes, but they have lost their trusting families as well.
FOUR PAWS is committed, on site, to help these animals who have been left behind and to provide them with food and veterinary care. Many animals are starving and suffer from diarrhea and highly contagious parasites due to polluted water.
Our experienced vets remain on site nonstop to treat these animals without delay.