Natural disasters and the need for cross border help between NGOs

“It is necessary to cooperate between countries. We are so closed to each other, we suffer from the same problem and we’re not able to help each other”

explains Radovan Gomulak from Caritas Slovakia.

When disasters take place, the first ones to react are usually NGOs and organizations. In spite of their wish to help, their actions are often compromised by the lack of preparation and organisation, often linked to the lack of funds and political involvement.

The Borders eliminated by the EU, thanks to the Schengen area seems to be brought back up by such an environmental crisis.  A tragedy that shows the limits of the border-free EU.

A similar role between countries but almost no combined effort

Their role is mainly to provide people necessary goods and to support them going through this hard time. They also help the victims financially. Rev. Bogdan Kordula, director of Caritas Krakow describes: “People who didn’t get affected by the floods give money spontaneously which allows us to get some equipment, like dryers and the rest is given to those in need.”


Some Organizations such as Red Cross, or Caritas do get help from their foreign sisters, but it depends mainly on the relations that they have. Marek Prášil from Red Cross Ostrava, Czech Republic is glad that they are able to maintain good relations with Red Cross Poland.

They use each other’s ambulances, material and help that one or the other requires.

“Their help is necessary and we need them as much as they need us when facing an mergency. This relation is special and only exists between Czech Republic and Poland, we almost have no contact with Red Cross Slovakia”


Marek showing the level that the floods reached in KarvinaNeighbours experience: an undeniable but rare asset

A chance that only a few organisations enjoy. Radovan Gomulak regrets that they didn’t get help from Czech Republic. “ Their experience in floods and landslides help would have been a great asset during such an emergency. “


Nevertheless things are slowly moving forward. The last year floods made NGOs realise the importance of cooperation on different level: local, regional and international. Radovan went to Brno during the last week of March to be more prepared for the next catastrophe.

“ The aim is to get some equipment because we didn’t have enough tools, gloves and rain boots, to clean the houses. When the floods occurred,  we had to buy everything which delayed help as it took us 1 or 2 days to get what we needed.”

In Brno, they are going to prepare a manual, which will contain basic information and advice for families“ I’m hoping to find an agreement so if they would need any humanitarian material, we could bring it to them or if we need help they could help us. Because it’s a cross border region we are very close and could we help each other in the future “

NGOs and their inexhaustible involvement

Viado with a family victim of the landslide in Slovakia

The role of organisations usually don’t stop overnight, it takes place on a long term basis. Vlado Fricky one of the local coordinators from People in Peril, Slovakia, follows the evolution of their situations. In the 2nd week of April, he is going back to Nizna Mysla to check on those families who live in containers (see other article). Make sure that they are ok, and that they get the money they should from the government are also one of his duties.

Cooperation between foreign NGOs is often difficult because not spontaneous and require arrangemenst. Yet their cooperation is eased  by a language quite similar between Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic but that’s not enough. Joint action between organizations is a key element to help those in need faster and more efficiently.


About Camille Lepage