Human stories of flooding in the BeneLux and Germany 

Photo credit: EPA/BBC

At Homa Reto, we connect people before, during, and after emergencies. During the summer of 2021, deadly floods devastated parts of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. More than 200 people tragically lost their lives, demonstrating the importance of preparedness and response. This time of crisis however also revealed remarkable stories of mutual aid between citizens and inhabitants. 

While humanitarian actors such as the local Red Cross were active on the grounds serving meals and providing first aid assistance, civil society volunteers have also joined efforts. They have come in their thousands from across the countries to offer their help in distributing clothes, clearing homes, collecting destroyed household possessions, and disposing of them. In the Belgium town of Limburg, one of the hardest hit cities, many houses were still without running water or electricity a few weeks after the events, forcing residents into temporary accommodation. Residents recognized that they would not have managed to recover without the help of these volunteers, with their finances already being stretched and the costs of repairs being very high. As an open network of NGOs, humanitarian actors, and local people, Homa Reto creates a care network for mutual support that can help organize and coordinate these actions for people in need. 

Beginning flood at river Salzach in July 2021 at the city of Laufen in July 2021 (Photo by Pixabay)

During disasters, community actors are often the main agents providing care services and saving lives. After the floods, volunteer fire brigades from all over Germany joined forces and sent members, as well as builders, roofers, skilled craftworkers, and restorers from more than 100 companies. An auction was also organized by local wine producers to raise money for the scores of vineyard owners whose livelihoods have been destroyed, and Imams from Frankfurt managed initiatives to distribute food to victims. With your participation, Homa Reto can map these local resources and create a social network that makes these resources and needs visible. Our goal is to facilitate aid in your surrounding community by relying on open, transparent, and secure data. 

In such times of crisis, our geospatial software can help save lives by organizing emergency management. By showing live emergency data, we aim to connect people who provide or require help. After extreme weather events such as these floods, we want to offer an inclusive and sustainable platform that streamlines mutual aid networks that have emerged on diverse social media. Our goal is to make it easier to access social, material, and political but also psychological services in turbulent times. At the Human Network, we also have a focus on local democracy. We want to allow people to offer repair, storage, accommodation, or transport for those most affected in their communities without relying on external institutions. 

As climate change will make these extreme weather events more likely in the future, innovative solutions must be adopted to reduce disasters going forward. There is a crucial need for effective long-term preparedness and adaptation to global warming. In this context, Homa Reto aims to be part of the solution by contributing to the improved preparedness of communities. In a disaster risk reduction logic, we aim to improve prevention by making the mapping of flood risks available to communities and eventually facilitating sustainable rebuilding. 

Flood damage in Ahrtal and Eifel. Reconstruction after cleanup. Nepomukbrücke in Rech, Germany (Photo by Pixabay)

The devastating events of this summer have highlighted the importance of community connection in keeping people safe when infrastructure fails. By setting up ways to recognize early warning systems and creating shared situational awareness, we hope to provide a way for all citizens to act in anticipation of disasters and crises. As experts recommend, we put communities at the heart of our actions, with the perspective of developing evacuation plans focused on mutual aid and tailored to residents and regional conditions. Our goal is to help communities become more resilient in the face of increasingly extreme weather events. To learn more, visit the how it works section of our website or contact us directly!

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