Albania Earthquake: The story of solidarity

The UN family of Agencies supporting Albania to build back better

Monday 26 November 2019

 At this time of the year, evenings get quite chilly in Albania. The streets and public spaces empty quite early as people prefer to enjoy the warmth of their homes. With bank holidays of 28 and 29 November falling on Thursday and Friday many people were looking forward to a long weekend. 

Tirana city center few days before the earthquake

And, there was nothing particularly unique about that evening of 25 November in Tirana. As the last evening noises weaned off, the city slowly fell into peaceful silence, the reward for humans to refresh their energy and be ready for another busy day. That was only few hours before the sweet silence would be broken by the eerie thunder of the disastrous earthquake...

Tuesday 26 November 2019

A day that will never be forgotten. In memory of human lives lost.

The earthquake hit hard, and stealthy, in early hours of the morning, as people were asleep. Central Albania was strongly shaken.

With 51 lives lost, more than 900 people injured and thousands left out of their homes, with schools, health care facilities, public institutions destroyed and the already vulnerable groups facing extreme hardship – the days following the infamous earthquake were the hardest, longest, the most painful for over 200 thousand people living in the near radius of the earthquake – and not only – the nation was in pain, all the world had eyes on Albania as the news of the earthquake travelled fast all over the world.

It was a time that called for solidarity. People needed help; the country needed support. It was a time to act.

Rescue and Recovery Operations, Durres - 26 November 2019

The UN family of agencies in Albania mobilized immediately to respond, especially through WHO supporting medical services, through UNHCR with tents and other items, through UNICEF focusing on children’s needs, and UNDP with support on several fronts related to building damage assessment and surveying the conditions people found themselves living in, particularly in rural areas. At the same time a UN Disaster Assistance Coordination team organised by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs joined the EU-led Civil Protection Team.

EU and UN working together for the Rescue and Recovery Operations

In times of humanitarian crisis there is no other alternative to emergency help – rescue people and save lives. And that is key to be able to recover fast. As soon as the emergency was under control the UN started to work on a recovery plan that accounted for building back better help the country keep into the path of sustainable development. 

UNCT earthquake response meeting on 27 November 2019

In partnership with the Government and the EU Civil Protection Unit, UNDP applied the Household and Building Damage Assessment methodology to carry out building damage assessment in the seven affected municipalities. UN teamed up with the EU and the World Bank to support Albania with running a Post Disaster Needs Assessment to support preparations of the Together for Albania Donor Conference which resulted in pledges in the amount of Euro 1.15 billion.

The UN received a medal of honour from the Prime Minister of Albania in appreciation of the organisation’s rapid support during the immediate response phase.

A time to build back better – keeping into the path of sustainable development

Aligned to PDNA and in collaboration with government to support the reconstruction and recovery efforts to ‘build back better’, successful resource mobilisation efforts resulted in Euro 11.65 million contributions to the Albania SDG Acceleration Fund from governments of Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and UK to support national earthquake efforts in the areas of (i) Education; (ii) Economic Recovery & Resilience, including Agriculture; (iii) Community Infrastructure; (iv) Social Protection; (v) Child Protection vi) Gender Equality

EU4Schools Programme, being implemented by UNDP in Albania. Funded by the European Union to the amount of US$77 million, and complemented with a contribution of $905,000 from UNDP, the Programme will repair or reconstruct 58 education facilities in 11 municipalities, home to around 20,000 students, children and teachers. Around 440,000 will benefit from the construction work.

Besides the allocation to the Albania SDG Acceleration Fund, direct financial funding in the amount of Euro 65 million is provided by the EU to UNDP for 58 school reconstructions and/or refurbishment in the affected 11 municipalities and Euro 40 million to UNOPS on the rehabilitation of cultural heritage sites affected by the earthquake. In addition, direct financial funding was provided by the government of Luxembourg and USAID to UNICEF to support most vulnerable children and parents affected by the Earthquake, especially those living in tents and other temporary shelters, with psychosocial counselling and emergency/after hour response services.

UNOPS construction engineers working on the reconstruction project at the Castle of Ishmi


One year after the earthquake 

UN Albania remains a steadfast partner of the people of Albania to support country build forward better, and pave the way for more just and sustainable future. Much gratitude goes to our development partners. We work together to build forward better, help economies recover, rebuilt schools and cultural heritage, improve learning and ensure child protection, increase women’s safety and resilience, support farmers

UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Atomic Energy Agency
International Labor Organization
International Organization for Migration
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
United Nations Office for Project Services
World Health Organization