Enhanced post-earthquake support to Albania
Almost three months on from the devastating 6.4 magnitude earthquake that shook central Albania, at least 32,000 people remain homeless and in need of urgent assistance. On 17 February, the international donors’ conference ‘Together for Albania’, jointly organised by the European Commission and the Albanian government, was held in Brussels to mobilise increased support to the affected population. “We promise that we are in for the long run… Our solidarity will continue to be as strong as it was in the first hours after the earthquake”, announced Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, in her opening speech.
In November 2019, the earthquake – the most powerful one that happened in the country for decades – left behind 51 fatalities, more than 900 injured, and thousands of people temporarily displaced. Thousands of buildings were seriously damaged, including health care facilities and schools. In all, an estimated 222,000 people were directly affected, according to the Albanian Red Cross.
Channeled through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF), the European Commission allocated EUR 300,000 in immediate emergency funding to provide vulnerable people with shelter, food, and psychosocial support. European support was also delivered through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, with EU Member States and partners from the region deploying search and rescue teams and structural engineers, as well as material assistance, like tents, water pumps and kitchen sets.
From the onset of the disaster, the Albanian Red Cross, with support from the IFRC and several Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has been a key responder across affected areas. More than 350 Albanian Red Cross volunteers have been providing First Aid, food assistance, psychosocial support and Restoring Family Links services, as well as distributing household items to cover immediate needs. So far, the Red Cross Red Crescent partners have supported more than 25,000 people.
“Our volunteers and staff have been on the ground since the beginning to ensure that basic needs are met,” shared the Secretary-General of Albanian Red Cross, Artur Katuçi. “But it is clear that despite the efforts of the Red Cross and other responders, many people are still in desperate need of support”, he added.
The Post-Disaster Needs Assessment released by the Albanian government, the EU, the United Nations and the World Bank in February estimates that around EUR 1 billion would be needed for recovery across all sectors, with the most important needs identified in the housing, education and productive sectors. This report will serve as a basis for the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. During the conference, representatives from the EU, Member States, Western Balkan and other countries, international financial institutions and international organisation jointly pledged a total of EUR 1.15 billion in funding.
The Albanian Red Cross and the IFRC are also expanding their emergency operations and appealing for additional funds. These new resources will go towards a cash assistance programme and disaster risk reduction activities to help communities strengthen their resilience to future disasters. As Mr Katuçi explained: “While we are closing the phase of emergency assistance distribution, our priority is preparing for the second phase. Our efforts, capacities and resources are concentrated on assessing the most vulnerable families affected by the earthquake”.
DREF is a tool to provide immediate financial support to kick start emergency response operations rapidly and effectively during crises. The Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations of the European Commission is supporting the DREF with average an annual contribution of EUR 3,000,000.
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