VILLARES DE BALMA, Spain — He declined to give a concrete estimate of how many dead and injured remain in the Balkans and Caspian regions after several natural disasters, but he warned that it would be impossible to effectively minimize the potential for a new wave in Europe.
Soudi Boussagouni, the head of the United Nations’ refugee agency, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, held talks Sunday with the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.
He also addressed the state of the Balkans and Caspian Sea region in general, noting that “There has been a very large loss of life and damage to infrastructure, housing and economy in the region, which creates a complex humanitarian situation.”
As bad as the situation in the Balkans and Caspian Sea region is now, with more than 4,000 people reported dead in the Balkans and hundreds of thousands displaced, Boussagouni said “it is still too early to properly assess the damage caused in the region, and unfortunately it is impossible to bring to a close” the effects of the tragedy there.
Boussagouni added that the Europe is “very capable of mitigating the vulnerability of its own populations, but in the case of major natural disasters, it is not possible to do so in advance, and we will have to wait until the consequences of the damage have been assessed and assessed with an appropriate response.”
Macedonia’s president, Gjorge Ivanov, said the region will be able to assist about 440,000 people now in urgent need of aid, including around 300,000 who have returned from Turkey and other locations, including in Albania and in the north of Greece.
As of Feb. 28, Albania had admitted 7,000 people into the country with most of them coming over the border from Serbia, while Macedonia had admitted over 4,000 people since mid-January, with Serbian individuals accounting for some 3,500 of those.
When asked if the meeting could serve as a “benchmark” for the European Union, Boussagouni said the document agreed on Sunday “is more of a sign of cooperation among the international agencies.”
Even as the meeting was scheduled, the UNHCR is already preparing to help in the wake of Cyprus’ worst natural disaster in decades.
In a statement, the UNHCR said it had “agreed on the rapid deployment of emergency staff in Cyprus to help with the recovery effort” and also posted on social media a link to the UNHCR’s help page.
Aside from receiving economic assistance, the UNHCR is to provide technical and material assistance to Cyprus authorities, including shelter, cooking supplies, access to food, health care and sanitation.
The UNHCR’s organization and knowledge can be leveraged by other organizations to provide assistance to individual victims of natural disasters such as Cypriot flooding who are without adequate shelter, the UNHCR said.
The agreement comes in the wake of Cypriot authorities prioritizing the evacuation of at least 50,000 people out of the region of the central coastline of the eastern Mediterranean island, located between Turkey and Israel.
The two-week rescue and relief operation involved over 500 Turkish special forces, border guards, police, emergency workers and naval vessels. The operation involved mobilizing at least 12 cargo vessels, six cruise ships, six hovercrafts, two construction cranes and ambulances.
It also involved the use of an internationally licensed maritime radio system to link the Greek-operated helicopters with military aircraft operating in the area.