Moldova’s journey from drought to flooding

Published: 24 September 2008 0:00 CET

Joe Lowry, Federation representative for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine

The dark Moldovan earth may be cracked on the surface, but below the sunbeaten soil it’s still spongy and sodden. Last month’s floodwaters have still not completely receded, and in the deep south of this tiny state, a new lake shimmers in the bowl of a valley. Ruined vineyards and cornfields are the first testimony to the fury of the floods.

The next is seen in the houses of a quaint rural street. At least a dozen, in the space of half a kilometre, have simply collapsed, the roofs crashing to the floor when the walls gave way, evoking a dying animal falling to its knees. Welcome to the village of Pocuri.

To say that Moldova has had a difficult year would be a serious understatement. Twelve months ago the talk was of drought, of grapes ‘boiling on the vine’, of animals being slaughtered and seeds being consumed. A lot of water flows through and around Moldova, but none was falling where and when it was needed.

Then at the end of July the two rivers that border Moldova, the Prut and the Dniester, burst their banks. The walls of dams and irrigation canals gave in to the force of water flowing and falling. Few lives were lost, but thousands of people were savagely impacted in this, the poorest country in Europe.

Moldova Red Cross emptied its disaster response stocks and appealed for international help. The call was quickly answered by the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) and the French government, among others. TRC dispatched four trucks full of blankets, mattresses and food parcels, while the government of France donated cash locally to fund more food parcels, hygienic supplies, bedding and water filters.

The International Federation appealed for more than a million Swiss francs for Moldova and its larger neighbour Ukraine which also saw serious flooding, in order to assist 30,000 people in Moldova and Western Ukraine. Aid operations will continue into the winter, as many families have lost food stocks, and will also need bedding, warm clothes and blankets.

To date, the appeal is 54% covered and the relief operation is in full swing, and Davit Macharashvili, the Federation’s head of operations for the Ukraine/Moldova floods, is confident that the bulk of supplies will reach people before the cold winter sets in.

With a whiff of autumn in the air already, the Moldova and Ukraine Red Cross societies are racing against time.

“A huge amount of aid has already been distributed, both here and in Ukraine”, says Davit. “We are procuring as close to the affected areas as possible, which saves time, stimulates the local economy, and gives the local Red Cross branches and thus local communities a greater say in what is delivered, when and to whom.”