NGOs join flood relief efforts

Photo: CTK

As waters slowly recede from the flooded areas around Bohemia, professionals and volunteers intensify the relief efforts. Non-profit organizations around the country have been working hard all week, collecting material and financial aid, and offering invaluable help with clean-up to the thousands of people who returned to flooded homes.

Photo: CTK
Jarmila Szkutová, a project coordinator at the Czech branch of the humanitarian NGO Adra, spoke earlier to Radio Prague about what her organization is doing to help.

“Adra covers several areas of aid, depending on specific needs of the people affected by the floods. It includes volunteering, financial and material help and also psychological and social help.”

What kinds of things are you doing right night. Were you helping with the building of flood defenses or is it more about helping individuals in their homes?

“Our volunteers assist mainly with eliminating damages caused by floods. That means clearing out furniture, silt, doing general cleaning of the homes, removing plaster from the walls and other kinds of help. Volunteers also help with the distribution of the in-kind donations. Previously Adra coordinated more than 1,500 volunteers, during the 2010 floods. Just recent we sent out the first 20 volunteers to the are of Protivín and also we are starting to lend out some building driers. Right now we have lent about 200 of them to households in Sedlčany and Kolín.“

Are you planning to also provide other material help once the water goes down in norther Bohemia? Maybe more basic things like towels or something like that?

“Definitely. Adra mainly provides cleaning products like detergents and soaps and also tools like buckets and mops or brooms and shovels. Adra also distributes personal protective equipment, like gloves and raincoats or disinfectants, and if needed, also canned food or non-perishable goods depending on the need.”

And are you also working in the evacuation shelters that have been set up?

Jarmila Szkutová,  photo: Adra
“Well, right now we are not. Right now our main work is to really start coordinating and seeing what the needs are. We are not waiting for the water to come down and then we start the main part of our help. So now we are doing a lot of basically looking at is needed, gathering those things. Right now, there is more work the fire and rescue services in the affected areas. Once the water goes done, it is our turn to step in.”

Once the water does go down, which are do you think Adra will be able to cover?

“Adra is planning to cover all affected areas. So, definitely the capital, but also other affected areas. Now, we have coordinators in different places going on boats looking at which places are most in need. There are some places that are really kind of forgotten. They are out of the main scope of the media and they are not really talked about in the media, but they are definitely in great need. So, those are the areas that we are focusing on and we would like to have teams of volunteers and coordinators to be ready when the water goes down to be there.

“You know, there are people from these little villages who are calling us and saying ‘we are here, nobody has been here yet, we will need help, what do we do?’ Mostly these are small villages that are forgotten and left out right now.”

So once you get those calls you prepare to actually go there and asses the needs…

“Exactly. And it a lot about our own assessment also. We really have people right now going, mainly on boats for now, and making assessments of the situation. We don’t just trust what is said, but we actually want to see the damage, see the needs, so we can really help more effectively.”

Photo: CTK
In addition to this direct communication with the people who have been affected by the floods, are you also working with local authorities in these villages or towns?

“Definitely. We communicate very closely with the mayors of the affected regions, as well as with the fire and rescue services. Right now, we are trying to identify the current needs and demands. This is our main task. And this can be done only in cooperation with all of the groups involved, so we can really provide the most effectively help.”

And in comparison to 2002 - since this year’s floods are most compared to those massive floods 11 years ago – how would you say the local authorities are dealing with the situation right now?

“The level of preparedness, in my opinion, is much much better this year. Since 2010 NGOs and the municipalities are really trying to cooperate and coordinate the emergency guidelines with the fire and rescue services and also with the other municipalities and other groups involved. So, compared to the past, mayors and NGOs have become I think really good partners and together we discuss the most effective possibilities for providing help.”

What about financial help…I know that you have set up a special bank account where people can donate money for the relief efforts? What has the response been like from the public? How much willingness is there to give money for this cause?

Photo: CTK
“I think that the willingness is really great and it’s really overwhelming. Czech people are wonderful when it comes to helping with immediate needs and disaster response from Czech people, I think, is really great. We have info lines set up and there are thousands of emails and calls every day. People are saying, you know, ‘I want to help’. And it is financial help and also material help that people are bringing here. And also just saying ‘We are thinking of you, we know this is a hard time also for you as you are trying to coordinate the relief efforts’. So, I think the support and the response is great. I hope that this is not only the case during the time that the water is high, because there will be much more help needed as the water goes down. People will need to volunteer and really step in and together we can do that, but we will need a lot more help. So, we hope that the support will continue.”

I know it may not be clear yet, but how many volunteers do you expect to have working with you in the next days and weeks?

“In 2010 flooding we had about 1,500 volunteers, but we do expect that this year there will be even more, because I think the size [of the flooded areas] is much greater right now. Like I said, the response is great and people are really saying that they want to join. So we are waiting for when the water actually goes down to start sending teams [of volunteers]. So, right now, we are just making spreadsheets with the needs and pairing them with the groups. And when this is ready and the water is down, we can send the people in.”

We spoke about cooperation with local authorities, what about working with other NGOs that are also working on the relief efforts? Are you coordinating with other organisations?

Photo: CTK
“Definitely. Adra is mostly cooperating with People in Need, Diaconia, the Czech Red Cross, and Catholic charities. We really try to make this a joint action, so we can allocate our material and financial help most effectively. And this really can be best done, once again, as a joint effort. Because it isn’t just one organization working doing this work, but it is all of us together.”

And in the past, these collaborations have been successful?

“They have been. We are joining together more and more. And NGOs also come together to create common emergency guidelines and discussing – not in the time of crisis, but really before that – joint plans for when the next flood or disaster comes. So, I think we are much more ready this year, than in years past, for this disaster response.”