USAID and DOD Work Hand-in-Hand in Bosnia and Herzegovina

U.S. Army cadets and local students in Travnik, BiH, painting playground fence.
U.S. Army cadets and local students in Travnik, BiH, paint a playground fence.
Haris Begic
Agencies collaborate to deliver flood assistance, renovate neighborhoods
“They don’t care what nationality you are or what religion you are. They just want to play together.”

November 2015—Following the catastrophic floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in May 2014, two U.S. Government agencies have been working together to deliver emergency supplies for flood victims, refurbish schools and rebuild playgrounds and youth camps. And they’ve tackled tougher issues, too, such as government transparency and corruption.

USAID, through its mission in BiH, has partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) throughout the country. Together, the two agencies programmed a total of $15 million for BiH’s flood recovery, making the United States the largest bilateral donor to the effort.

In September 2014, USAID Mission Director David Barth and Defense Attaché Col. Scott Miller drew attention to the fact that the BiH Government was not adequately responding to the needs of the people after the floods, pointing to the corruption and misuse of funds that should have been used to mitigate floods and landslides before the crisis occurred. They co-authored a post for the Ambassador’s blog entitled “Outrage,” which drew widespread support from BiH citizens, was shared repeatedly on social media and news portals, and was printed in daily newspapers.

Soon after, Barth and Miller visited Doboj, one of the worst-affected areas, to highlight the importance of what Barth called “radical transparency” in the distribution of flood recovery assistance.

“Many BiH citizens believe that the flood donations and international assistance will disappear due to corruption and cronyism …. Demand more of your elected representatives,” they said in a joint statement. Barth and Miller also informed citizens about a interactive online map that allowed them to monitor the progress of flood recovery activities and report any malfeasance.

USAID and DOD also work hand-in-hand in the field. In the days after the floods, USAID helped DOD deliver five truckloads (over 25 tons) of emergency relief supplies from the U.S. Army Garrison Livorno (Camp Darby) in Italy. The goods, valued at approximately $750,000, included generators, water pumps, space heaters, sleeping bags, cots, mats, blankets and portable kitchens.

In September 2014, USAID provided furniture to seven flooded schools and a disability center while DOD arranged delivery with the BiH Army. In Doboj, USAID and DOD refurbished and furnished a center for disabled children and youth. In Glamoc, the two agencies provided two schools with teaching aids, supplies and sports equipment.

Close collaboration continued in May 2015, when USAID welcomed 24 U.S. Army cadets as part of the Army's Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) program. USAID organized joint activities to benefit the local population in various BiH cities.

In Orašje, USAID civil society partners, the cadets and local volunteers relocated a children’s park that was situated next to a busy street. They cut down vegetation, removed illegally dumped waste, planted trees, repaired lighting, moved the swings and slide, installed trash cans and built benches, a sandbox and a climbing mound.

In Travnik, the team renovated three dilapidated playgrounds. They cleaned, sanded and painted of all the fences and recreational equipment, repaired or replaced broken benches, and removed dangerous and bulky waste.

In Bosanska Otoka near Bihać, they renovated a youth camp that was damaged in a storm. They installed 150 meters of fence, cleared 300 meters of river bank, repaired 80 meters of road and built log furniture, a volleyball court and a stage.

“USAID in Sarajevo provided additional funding and coordination for the service projects, and truly went above and beyond in ensuring the success of CULP,” said U.S. Army Capt. David Knox, who organized the program in Sarajevo.

The cadets worked side-by-side with local youth, the future leaders of BiH, building relationships that may one day benefit the citizens of both BiH and the United States.

“If we are to make BiH better, it’s not by starting with the older people,” said U.S. Army Capt. Robert Perez. “Playgrounds let us start with the children. They [children] don’t care what nationality you are or what religion you are. They just want to play together. They play together, and they grow up together.”

The impact of this work is expected to lead to lessened ethnic tensions in the future, bringing about societal cohesion, social well-being and economic prosperity in BiH.


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