Mehdi Ben Mrad in Bosnia

Around 1.5 million people in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been affected by devastating flooding and landslides, which began in May. Islamic Relief aid worker Mehdi Ben Mrad visited the country in May. Here, he reflects on the needs of communities suffering in the aftermath of the disaster.

On 25 May, the first day of my visit, we travelled to Maglaj – a municipality about an hour’s drive from Sarajevo. The first thing that struck me was the amount of debris on the side of the roads. It is a mix of household items and material from houses that were destroyed in the floods. Beds, cupboards, kitchen utensils – everything you can imagine that is normally inside your home is now in piles along the west bank of the river.

Homes inundated within 15 minutes

When the floods hit Maglaj, the houses were inundated with water within 15 minutes. There was no time really, to save your most precious things. In their shoes, I would think about how to save my family first – and I heard stories about many people fleeing with their children, and others trying to save some of their possessions too.

I could see for myself how deep the floodwaters were here. The water-level is visible on the sides of houses that are still standing. And, whilst Maglaj has been affected by the disaster, there are other communities in the north that face even greater suffering.

Velja, country director of Islamic Relief Bosnia was my host and guide. He and his team came here several days ago to deliver tools and bottled water to affected families. Back then, many roads were impassable, due to the amount of mud – even a 4×4 could not use them.

The clean-up has begun, but the biggest challenge remains

Debris pilled in the streets of Maglaj, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Debris pilled in the streets of Maglaj, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Now, the city is transforming. Local people, volunteers from elsewhere in the country, and the local authorities are working together on the clean-up. Most of the mud has been taken away using excavator-type equipment. Only the debris on roadsides give a sense of how difficult the conditions were just a few days back.

The people of Maglaj are cleaning inside their houses, shops, and cars. Already, they are facing the biggest challenge of this disaster: to rebuild their lives and return to normality.

Islamic Relief has been delivering vital emergency relief since the early days of the flooding – distributing wheat, clothing, hygiene items and tools such as shovels and rubber boots. We also plan to support the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina in reclaiming their communities and their lives from the floods.

With your support, Islamic Relief can continue its work, and support affected families to recover from this disaster.  Please donate to our Bosnia Emergency Appeal today.