Immediately following the 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Albania in the early hours of 26 November, the United Nations family began mobilizing. Agencies on the ground – especially WHO, UNDP, UNHCR and UNICEF – began organizing their support while the global UNDAC system, managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, deployed two Humanitarian Coordinators in integrated support to the EU Civil Protection team.
WHO staff in Albania deployed the same day as the quake supporting national health authorities to assess medical needs to adapt to these exceptional circumstances by shifting priorities, and repurposing facilities and personnel, focusing on primary health care. Additionally, a risk communication expert and an Emergency Medical Teams expert were mobilized.
To respond to the immediate needs of the affected population, UNHCR supported the Government of Albania on the post-earthquake emergency response. Over the past weeks the organization has mobilized 400 m2 of Core Relief Items (CRIs), composed of 171 family tents (8 persons) and their winterization kits, 12,304 sleeping bags (of which 9,990 winter type), 9,990 rubber mats, 876 plastic mats, 370 Tarpaulins, 13, 800 Blankets and 12,000 Raincoats. The Core Relief Items were donated through the General Directorate of State Reserves in close coordination with the Ministry of Defense, the General Civil Emergency Directorate and EU Civil Protection Team. The tents and winterization kits -to benefit 1,350 persons- have been distributed by the authorities in the municipalities of Durrës (villages of Ishmi and Shkafane), Milot, Kurbin (village Fushe Kuqe), Mamurras, Lac, Kruja and Bubq administrative unit, Kamza, Vora and Rrogozhina. UNHCR has monitored the distribution. The other items are distributed according to the needs of the population affected by the earthquake.
UNDP deployed a team of international advisers for the post-disaster emergency response and early recovery efforts. In partnership with the Government, including the Emergency Committee and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the EU Civil Protection Unit, UNDP applied the Household and Building Damage Assessment methodology. The methodology was successfully tested in other countries facing similar post disaster situations, to support authorities assess the damage and impact on residential and non-residential infrastructure and collect geo-referenced information. The data being generated allows for emergency relief and for planning the support for recovery. In the presence of the Government authorities, UNDP tested the methodology in the field. The Government adopted it to their needs and is currently undertaking the building damage assessment in the seven affected municipalities.
In partnership with the Ministry of Economy and Finance, UNDP mobilized its staff and additional volunteers to assess the situation of people affected by the earthquake using its Household Damage Assessment tool. The tool generates useful data for the government and international development partners to prioritize assistance. As of 20 December, 9,797 people, from 2,199 households, have been assessed. Moreover, UNDP signed an agreement with the Albanian Institute of Statistics to run a mini Income and Living Conditions Survey (SILC) to asses living conditions of affected citizens through innovative methodologies for data collection which will be useful for the Government’s rapid decisions for priority assistance.
Guided by the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action and in partnership with the Government of Albania, UNICEF supported the emergency operations immediately after the quake with a focus on addressing critical child protection and education needs. Over 1,400 children have benefited from the UNICEF emergency response intervention, mainly through 6 Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) and 4 Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS). UNICEF is co-leading the Education Working Group (WG), Child Protection WG, and Humanitarian Cash Transfers (HCT) WG along with its key partners. UNICEF is currently providing technical assistance to the MoESY to take stock of the damages and losses faced by the education sector and provide estimates of the recovery and reconstruction needs.
UN Women has liaised with its partner NGOs and promoted their participation in relevant coordination mechanisms. In addition, it supported the “Post Disaster Needs Assessment” (PDNA) training with its regional humanitarian specialist to help international and national assessment teams understand the implications of mainstreaming gender across the PDNA exercise.’
Looking to recovery, the UN is now working closely with Albanian Government, the EU and the World Bank. following the internationally agreed protocol, to undertake a Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA). The Assessment will not only look at damage and its impact across society and the economy, but will outline a recovery strategy, from restoration of services to complete rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructure and livelihoods. Critically, the PDNA will also look at how to build capacity of Albania’s own Civil Protection and Disaster Risk Reduction institutions and systems, so that future disasters will incur reduced casualties, less damage and have systems in place to provide immediate response.
Finally, the UN is continuing to support Government on humanitarian coordination. With up to 15,000 Albanians still living out of their homes and facing increased costs and challenges, OCHA’s UNDAC team has deployed a lead humanitarian coordinator, information managers and winterization experts to support Government’s continued efforts to support earthquake affected people.
UN is grateful to all partners who have supported our efforts including the UK who have activated its strong partnership mechanisms with OCHA, WHO and UN Women.