Albania is a country nestled in the southeast of Europe. Its coast is located on the Adriatic and Ionian seas, while it shares land borders with Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece. The Democratic Albanian Republic came to power after the dissolution of the former Albanian Socialist Republic in 1991. The Albanian government has made it a central goal to eliminate hunger. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Albania.
10 Facts About Hunger in Albania
- According to the 2017 census, Albania‘s population is comprised of 2.8 million people, 15 percent of whom are living below the poverty line, having about $1 euro a day for personal expenses. Some families spend up to 80 percent of their budget on food.
- Albania is experiencing a refugee crisis which also contributes to its hunger problems. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Hunger, there are some 407,600 refugees from neighboring Kosovo, who are located mostly around Albania’s northern border. However, Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization, is distributing food such as warm milk, broth, sugar and salt to the refugees. One team in the Albanian city of Kukes ensured the distribution of drinking water to some 4,000 refugees. While Action Against Hunger will continue to aid the refugees for as long as it takes, its goal is to establish food security and self-sufficiency as soon as possible.
- The 2018 Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranked Albania 53rd out of 119 qualifying countries. With a score of 12.2, this puts the country at a hunger level that is moderate. However, it is still one of the lowest-ranked European nations. The GHI categorized Albania as a country with a transitioning economy that is highly vulnerable to a financial crisis and increased hunger rates. The GHI attributes this to high global food prices as well as pay cuts for unskilled workers.
- Child stunting rates have dropped dramatically in Albania, from almost 40 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2018. Additionally, GHI considers less than six percent of the Albanian population undernourished. This is likely the result of government programs, as well as the actions of non-governmental organizations and other humanitarian aid.
- As of 2016, about 54 percent of the adult population in Albania were overweight with an additional 21.7 percent of adults classified as obese. An interesting phenomenon surrounding obesity in Albania is that it is disproportionately high in the elderly and middle-aged, with rates jumping to 32.7 percent in people ages 46-55, and 21.9 percent in people ages 56-65. One can partially explain this by the fact that in some cultures, people consider obesity a sign of wealth and beauty.
- Gender inequality also contributes to hunger in Albania. Though Albanian women traditionally take on the well-being of their family, they have far fewer resources or opportunities than men with which to do this. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stated that “Gender equality is the key to eliminating poverty and hunger.” The FAO’s policy on gender equality has been used as a resource in the creation of the Country Programming Framework, a signed plan between the FAO and Albanian government to further hunger and poverty reduction and end gender inequality.
- Twenty-four percent of Albania’s geography consists of arable land for farming. But because of small farms and limited mechanization, the agricultural sector of Albania remains largely underdeveloped. Agriculture contributes to 20 percent of the Albanian GDP and employs about 58 percent of the population. However, these numbers are likely to increase due to government involvement.
- A central goal of the Albanian government is the continued financial support and development of both independent farmers as well as private investment in the private agriculture sector. To this end, the Albanian government has allocated an average of $10 million annually to the agriculture sector over the past six years. In addition, the Albanian Ministry of Agriculture has set up a fund of $5 million euros to aid farmers in the country. Already, there have been 7,700 farmers who have passed the first phase of the application process.
- The government of Albania is not the only entity investing in the agricultural sector, though. The FAO announced it will establish an office in the capital city of Tirana. The Albanian Minister, Edmond Panariti, declared that the FAO would have the full support of the Albanian government and praised the organization for its assistance in the country. The FAO’s strategic objectives include, “the elimination of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, the transformation of agriculture into a more productive and sustainable sector and the reduction of rural poverty.” The FAO hopes to achieve this by assisting the Albanian government in the technical aspect of the agriculture and agro-culture sectors.
- Albania’s biggest trade partner, the EU (with around 66.7 percent of Albanian agricultural exported to EU markets and 57.8 percent of Albanian imports coming from the EU) aided the countries agricultural sector with The Stabilization and Association Agreement. This agreement eliminated many tariffs on Albanian imports and put protections on trade between Albania and the EU. Thanks to agreements like these, Albania represents a significant market for the EU and neighboring countries. As a result, the nation has experienced tremendous economic growth and a steady rise in GDP since the year 2000.
Since the ousting of the communist party in 1992, Albania has had an uphill battle against poverty and hunger. However, the years since then have seen the country make great strides in technological advancement and economic growth, both of which help it stay competitive in the European market and combat its hunger problem. There is still much for Albania to do, yet all indications from the Albanian government, EU and the global community, as well as these 10 facts about hunger in Albania, point to continued progress for this European nation.
– Henry Burkert