When water started flooding her family’s house at five a.m., 18-year-old Seherzada woke up and ran out of the house taking only one important thing with her: her prom dress. With prom night only two weeks away, she could not risk losing her dress, not even as the worst natural disaster in a century engulfed her hometown of Kakanj in central Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Seherzada’s family lost almost everything that was in their house. “I managed to save two sofas and a furnace,” says Fahrudin, Seherzada’s father, as he sits in front of the house that now has only walls. And, even the walls are still wet. “[The] house was flooded for two days with water up to my knees. Everything got destroyed: [the] kitchen, [the] bathroom… I had to throw away all the furniture,” he adds.
Seherzada and her family are some of estimated 1.5 million people in Bosnia and Herzegovina affected by the heavy rainfalls that resulted in record-breaking floods. In a matter of days, rivers burst their banks, flooding some areas with more than three meters of water. Many of the roads collapsed, and land and mudslides have destroyed hundreds of houses and, in some cases, wiped out entire villages.
One week after the start of the floods, most of the communities are still without clean water and electricity. Health experts are concerned and expected the situation to worsen due to prolonged lack of clean water and addition of mud and filth to the drinking water, brought in by the floods.
In the case of Seherzada’s family, not only did the family’s house suffer, but their source of income is endangered as well; the greenhouse, they received from World Vision in 2008, was flooded as well. The peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers that family lovingly cared for were covered with 40 centimetres of water. And, although the family cleaned the greenhouse, the vegetables are likely contaminated by filth and will have to be destroyed.
Fahrudin, disabled and unemployed, doesn’t want to think what will happen if his plants have to be destroyed as that was his main source of income. But, he says he will continue to fight for well-being of his family. “No job is hard for me,” he says, proudly, as he tries to find a way to repair family house. “We will have to take a loan” he sighs. Then points out, “life goes on. We need to struggle. There are people who lost everything.”
Until their house is repaired, Seherzada and her 8-year-old brother, Ismail, a World Vision sponsored child, are sleeping at the neighbour’s house while their parents continue to sleep outside, next to their damaged house. There is no other option for them. Ismail doesn’t want to return home. “He is afraid that floods will happen again,” his mother Mirha, explains.
To help them cope with the effects of the floods, World Vision staff provided the family with hygiene packages, which Ismail cheerfully carried to his mother upstairs. More rain is expected for the upcoming week. No one can predict what will happen then.
The story was first published by World Vision.
Photo: Aida Šunje