The Belgian Red Cross has collected almost €40 million in donations towards helping victims of July’s floods and will be distributing direct payments to affected people, a first in Belgium, according to a press release.
The fatal floods in July killed at least 40 people, and the Red Cross faced some backlash for its response from Belgian media outlets who reported a lack of presence on the ground.
So far, the agency says it has spent €4.7 million on first aid, food aid and shelter.
In a next phase that the Red Cross is calling a first in Belgium, €11 million will be redistributed, affecting around 10,000 people considered to be the most vulnerable victims.
Payments of €650 per person will be made, along with additional payments of €195 per family member.
“For this cash distribution project, we have focused on the main mission of the Red Cross, which is to provide help and assistance to people with very low incomes who need it the most,” explained Pierre Hublet, Chief Executive Officer of the French-speaking Belgian Red Cross, in the press release.
“This is the first time that such a system has been set up in Belgium. This system has a real added value because who better than the disaster victims to know what they need the most.”
Persons eligible for the funding include those who receive financial assistance from the government, such as through programmes for living allowances and those receiving disability benefits.
The Red Cross has made direct payments to disaster victims in the past in other countries, but says this is the first time they will have done so in Belgium.
Nine municipalities affected by the flood will be involved in the project at its start, after which more will follow.
“In practice, the social organisations will identify the beneficiaries and pay the Red Cross donation directly into their bank account or via prepaid cards,” the Red Cross explained, adding that they will adhere to strict privacy regulations and will not have access to any of the beneficiaries’ personal data.
“In parallel to this unprecedented operation, the Belgian Red Cross is of course continuing its actions on the ground with some twenty reception points in the most affected areas, the distribution of more than 5,000 meals per day, emergency accommodation centres, material aid distributed via the municipalities and the mobilisation of hundreds of volunteers,” the organisation said in a statement.