Poverty in Albania
After the fall of its communist government in 1991, significant political, social and economic challenges confronted Albania. Albania is a country that lies on the Mediterranean Sea and borders Greece. The fall of the Communist Party left the country with high levels of extreme poverty that it needed to address quickly. As the government has transitioned to a constitutional republic and the centrally-planned economy has shifted to an open-market structure, it has also implemented considerable economic plans and reforms. These reforms partially alleviated the severity of the poverty much of the population faced before 1992, but poverty in Albania continued to be a challenge as the country moved forward.

Understanding Poverty in Albania

  • Privatization and a new legal framework were some of the key reforms the government implemented in 1992 that helped to increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and strengthen the economy. The privatization of agriculture, which employs 40% of the population, particularly helped alleviate poverty in the rural areas where it is most prevalent. The new legal framework lowered poverty in urban areas by encouraging the private sector activity necessary to an open-market economy.
  • Consistent low-income levels and low administrative capacity are limitations to the success of economic reforms in Albania. The low-income population is particularly susceptible to price fluctuations and unemployment. For this reason, inflation in 1996 and 1997 caused a downturn in the economic growth the country had experienced earlier.
  • Fluctuations in the global economy impact the level of poverty. Remittances – money that Albanians working mostly in Greece and Italy sent back to the country – are a significant component of economic growth. After the 2008 financial crisis, remittances decreased from 15% of the GDP to 5.8% by 2015. Simultaneously, the poverty level in Albania increased from 35.8% in 2008 to 38% in 2017. This definition is the percentage of the population living on less than $5.50 per day, the poverty threshold for upper-middle-income countries. The World Bank classifies Albania as an upper-middle-income country.
  • Low-skill occupations, including agriculture, require lower levels of education and offer little job security yet employ the majority of the working population living in poverty. Those workers then have limited skills relevant to other types of higher-income labor and have constrained potential for social mobility.

Efforts to Alleviate Poverty in Albania

  • Recent growth in labor-intensive sectors has increased the number of potentially higher income jobs available to Albanians and raised the GDP. Available jobs in textiles, tourism, trade and administrative services have been on the rise since 2013 and contribute to greater economic stability. Tourism, for instance, is one of the fastest-growing industries in Albania. In 2019, the number of foreign visitors increased by 8.1% in comparison to 2018.
  • International investments and donations have grown in recent years. The government has attracted international interest by taking the initiative to encourage economic growth through improving roads and rail networks and introducing plans of economic and legislative reform. These reforms primarily focus on strengthening tax collection and increasing public wages and pensions. They have been successful thus far and the World Bank estimates that the poverty rate has lowered to 37% as of April 2020.
  • Public debt remains high and a potentially significant barrier to the constant growth necessary to sustain Albania’s economy and keep the poverty level steadily decreasing. Although the debt requires a strong fiscal policy response by the government to avoid economic shocks, it has shown a promising 3% decline rate from 2015 to 2018.

Albania’s Partnership with International Organizations

Although not yet a member, Albania received E.U. candidacy status in June 2014 and officially adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. Furthermore, Albania’s government released its National Strategy for Development and (European) Integration 2015-2020 in 2016. It also partnered with the U.N. in Albania to release the Programme of Cooperation for Sustainable Development 2017-2021, a comprehensive plan for sustainable development and alleviation of poverty.

The U.N.’s work in alleviating poverty in Albania and its partnership with Albania’s government has proven to be successful as it has helped achieve sustainable economic development through various reforms. The poverty rate in Albania has shown steady signs of decrease since its peak in 2014. The international community is also supporting the government’s steps to combat poverty in Albania. After a devastating earthquake in November 2019 hindered ongoing efforts of infrastructure improvement and other reforms, Albania’s government received €1 billion in assistance from several international donors during a conference in February 2020.

The U.N. in Albania is just one of the organizations working to fight poverty in Albania through collaboration with the government and other civil society and private sector organizations. Among its goals are Albania’s integration into the E.U. and the achievement of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which should stabilize the country’s economy and ultimately lower the poverty rate.

Looking to the Future

The onset of COVID-19 could strain the government’s resources and ability to continue with these reforms to alleviate poverty in the immediate future. However, the U.N.’s work in Albania, support from international donors and stronger commitments from the government to lower the poverty rate point to an optimistic future of long-term development. This should subsequently lead to economic growth and a steady decrease in the rate of poverty.

Isabel Serrano
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Albania
Albania became highly secluded following Enver Hoxha’s communist reign from 1908-1985. Medical staff would often make house calls for patients that were severely ill because there was only one hospital per city. The paucity of the country’s healthcare offset the highly skilled and thoroughly trained professors at the Mother of Teresa School of Medicine. This school emerged in 1959 and was the first school of medicine in Tirana. The doctors had the skill, but they lacked the proper tools to go about daily operations. The lack of resources during this time had a damaging effect on healthcare in Albania.

The Concerns

While professors who were to teach at the Mother of Teresa School of Medicine received training in other European countries, Albania still gave little to no personal freedom regarding matters of end-of-life to its patients. Documentations have determined that the nutrition of Albania became scarce under Hoxha’s rule. In fact, infant mortality rates supposedly increased; they are currently at 10.83 per 1,000 births (9.49 for females per 1,000 and 12.08 for males per 1,000). While the population began to dwindle, the communist regime led a movement in which women received the promise of a cow in addition to the title of “heroic mother” if they had six or more children.

Birthing units would hold five to seven pregnant patients per room: no husbands or other family members could fit or enter. Albania currently meets compliance with global labor standards regarding maternity protection. Mothers in the country can enjoy the benefits of a full maternity leave duration, full amounts of maternity leave cash benefits and breastfeeding breaks with breastfeeding facilities. The country also established that the government was the source of the cash benefits and not individual employers.

Lack of Freedom

Not only could “heroic mothers” not have their husbands or other family members around as they gave birth, but Albanians are still unable to deny poor medical treatment from hospital doctors and medical staff. The coverage for healthcare in Albania for citizens during communism mimicked the Soviet-type Semashko model and was free of charge. The Albanian government owned and directed the healthcare plan.

Today a combination of healthcare contributions from the state, employees and employers pay for Albanian public healthcare spending. In fact, the employer and employee each contribute 3.4% with employees’ portion coming from their salaries. The state subsidizes and pays for the rest. The fact that Albanian healthcare does not address the withdrawal of treatment gives Albanians little power to make healthcare decisions.

The WHO

Despite Albanians’ lack of healthcare freedom, the country is doing much to raise the quality of healthcare in Albania. The World Health Organization (WHO) mentioned the 2013-2022 Albanian Plan for Mental Health Services Development. The WHO highlighted the plan to protect the rights of individuals with special needs and mental health problems. The 11th National Report on the Implementation of the European Social Charter for Albania stated that as a part of its 2013-2022 plan, it built nine community mental health centers and 13 supported homes.

The idea behind supported homes is to deinstitutionalize psychiatric wards with high populations and transition these patients back into society. The method before this was to simply hospitalize mentally ill citizens. Albania is also home to Different and Equal, an NGO that assists victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Moving Forward

Albania is not only developing mental health centers or supported homes; the government has also promised to revolutionize and increase financial output towards the health sector. The government believes that the need for medical devices will increase. Increased spending will lead to new technology in hospitals. It also maintains the idea that increased spending on the health of its country will cause investments in public hospitals to rise. According to the Albanian Ministry of Health (MoH), public healthcare spending in 2018 reached 48.6 billion Leke ($450 million). Expectations determine that more recent spending statistics should be higher than reports state.

In 2018, the WHO reported that during visits, its team noticed that the healthcare buildings were old but that they had received good maintenance. Also, the MoH developed a general medical check-up for everyone between the ages of 40-65 in 2016. The idea behind this check-up was that it would give individuals the motivation to visit their family physician. Albanians enjoyed this innovative solution to healthcare advocacy for free.

The Albanian government has chosen a route of seclusion in the past. Communism allowed citizens to have free healthcare but at the cost of the freedom to choose the right health options for themselves. The citizens of Albania are now helping to fund their own healthcare. Nurturing mothers have become a larger focus, which will hopefully lower the infant mortality rate. Albania is also addressing mental illness and future government healthcare spending is set to increase.

DeAndre’ Robinson
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Girls’ Education in Albania
Albania is a small country located in southeastern Europe neighboring Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece. The country has endured many socioeconomic hardships since the fall of communism in 1991 but is now on the rise from one of the poorest countries in Europe to a middle-income country. As in most countries, education is an integral part of social, cultural and economic development. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Albania.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Albania

  1. Most girls attend primary and secondary schools. Albania considers the first nine years of school mandatory, which it calls primary education, although most students complete three additional years of school which are part of secondary education. According to the World Bank, the female net enrollment ratio for girls of primary school age (ages 6-15) was 94 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, 89 percent of females ages 15-18 enrolled in secondary schooling in 2018. However, these percentages of girls in the Albanian school system are still very good, as nearly the entire population of eligible girls attended some type of schooling.
  2. A little over half of the population of young adult women attend tertiary schools. Tertiary schooling is typically at universities and students aged 18 and older can study to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or a Ph.D. The gross enrollment rate in 2018 was 68 percent for women in tertiary education, up from 39 percent in 2009. Even though the gross enrollment rate in 2018 for tertiary schooling is not as high as the net enrollment rates for additional schooling, these numbers show that girls’ education in Albania is rising.
  3. There are more girls receiving an education than boys. In the same study that the World Bank conducted, only 90 percent of boys of primary school age enrolled in school, compared to 94 percent of females in 2013. As for secondary schools, the male net enrollment rate stood at 84 percent compared to 89 percent for females in 2018. Thankfully, boys’ education and girls’ education in Albania have a very small gap between them. However, since 2009, there has been a significant gap between the gross enrollment rates in tertiary schools by gender. The most recent data has the male enrollment rate in tertiary education at 43 percent, a 25 percent difference between genders.
  4. Unemployment for women could impact tertiary education enrollment. Women’s participation in the labor force has dropped drastically from 78 percent in 1989 to 46 percent in 2005, likely due to the collapse of communism and social upheaval in 1991. This number did not reach 50 percent until 2013 and has been gradually rising since then. For decades, Albania has held onto strong patriarchal values that place women outside of the labor market. Because of these values, “women of reproductive age are discriminated against in the market because they may start a family, and thus have fewer opportunities for retraining and qualification.” If women experience exclusion from employment and have to operate in the domestic sphere, they may not see the value of an education, thereby contributing to lower rates of enrollment beyond compulsory schooling.
  5. Women earn less than men on average. In addition to hiring difficulties, women also earn 10.5 percent less than their male counterparts. The good news is that Albania has a lower gender wage gap than most of the European Union. The E.U.’s gender wage gap average was 16.2 percent in 2016. However, the gender wage gap could exist due to women’s lack of participation in the labor market, or vice versa. This could also be related to the rising net enrollment rate for girls’ education in Albania, specifically in tertiary schooling.
  6. Similarly, there is a low representation of Albanian women in decision making. In 2007, women occupied only 7 percent of seats in Albania’s parliament, with only nine women total in senior-level positions and 2 percent of local government leaders women. In 2017, the number of seats that women occupied in parliament rose to 21.4 percent. Having years of low representation of women in the Albanian government has allowed for the gender-based discrimination in education and employment to run rampant throughout the country. With fewer women involved in decision making, girls have fewer protections, making something as necessary as education difficult to obtain.
  7. There are low government expenditures on education. Unfortunately, Albania spent only 3.95 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education in 2016, according to UNESCO. A government undermines the value of an education when it invests so little in it.
  8. However, the Albanian government is helping girls in other ways. The Albanian government has spent this past decade focusing on undoing the decades of gender inequality through the law, specifically the Law on Reproductive Health, Measures on Domestic Violence and laws on Prevention and Elimination of Organized Crime and Trafficking Through Preemptive Measures on Personal Assets. In 2015, the Prime Minister of Albania publicly announced to the United Nations the national government’s commitment to gender equality. Following this, the national government adopted the Gender Equality and Action Plan 2016–2020 with the aim to consolidate efforts by all institutions to advance gender equality. The government used funds to benefit women’s enterprises and support services for survivors of domestic violence.
  9. Other organizations have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of women in Albania. The Mary Ward Loreto Foundation is an organization creating programs to empower adolescent girls and protect them from domestic violence and trafficking on the ground in rural communities in Albania. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the Albanian national government and civil society to create programs to end gender-based discrimination, like the Gender Equality and Gender-Based Violence Programme in 2015. UNICEF has partnered with Albania’s Ministry of Education to implement new systems to improve access to education for children throughout the country. In November 2019, the World Bank loaned Albania $10 million to improve women’s access to economic opportunity.
  10. Female education is on the rise in Albania. Female enrollment has been rising since 2009 by roughly 1 to 2 percent every year. The total net enrollment rate is at 96 percent, so, fortunately, the majority of Albania’s children have access to public education. Despite having a lower percentage of girls attending primary and secondary school, over half of the women aged 18-22 enrolled in tertiary education at 67.58 percent in 2018. The girls who enrolled in education continue on to undergraduate and graduate studies.

Albania is a country rich in history. Unfortunately, much of that history has allowed gender-based discrimination to take root, even affecting girls’ education in Albania. Because of its changing political and social climate, patriarchal beliefs and a lack of protection for women have allowed the country to leave them behind. The good news is that women are catching up. Albania has worked tirelessly this past decade to undo gender inequality through laws, civil society and partnerships with global organizations to provide women the resources they need to succeed, starting with a promise of an education.

– Emily Young
Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts About Sanitation in Albania
Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Today, 40 percent of its households lack basic education, heat and sanitation, and only 50 percent in both rural and urban areas have access to safe drinking water. Albania is located in southeastern Europe with neighboring countries Montenegro, Kosovo and Greece. The population estimates just over 3 million people. Albania became free from communist rule and later established a multiparty democracy holding its first multiparty election in 1991. Albania joined NATO in 2009 and became a candidate to join the European Union in 2014. In 2017, Albania received a European Commission recommendation to open EU accession negotiations. The unemployment rate has steadily decreased from 13.6 percent in 2017 to 11.4 in 2019. To learn more about its sanitation issues, here are 10 facts about sanitation in Albania.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Albania

  1. Basic sanitation services are increasing. People living in the rural section of Albania are using basic sanitation services, which is nearly a 15 percent increase from its lowest value of 82.19 percent in 2000. That means these people are using basic services that other households do not share.
  2. Sanitation conditions have grabbed the EU’s Attention. Since achieving the candidacy of the EU in 2014, Albania has made a commitment to bring its water and sanitation sector up to EU standards. The Albanian government has implemented numerous reforms, already reducing municipalities and local authorities from 300 to 61. The government is also progressively decentralizing public services, which means more decision-making responsibilities have gone to local governments and public authorities.
  3. National service providers are improving commercial and technical expertise. Albania’s water sector institutions are in cooperation with the National Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy. This partnership gives the project an outreach that extends to all cities to help communication flow between water users and the public with the institution using an online customer portal for service providers.
  4. Albania has resources for fresh water. Albania is a small country with over 150 rivers, including streams and lakes. Ninety-five percent discharge into the Adriatic Sea and only 5 percent of rivers go into the Ionian Sea. There are two periods of water flow during a calendar year. The shorter dry period runs from June through September. The wet period spans from October through May.
  5. The European Union supports clean water supply in Albania. In 2018, the EU contributed a 24 million euro grant to Albania. In the last 10 years, the grant support to its water supply exceeded 110 million euros. A large percentage of the grant goes to wastewater collections and treatment in Albania coastal regions.
  6. Albanian schools are promoting personal hygiene. A health fair occurred as part of the Vechan School Water Project and it included local nurses, students, the Red Cross and the local State Health Department. The project resulted in renovating and reconstructing bathrooms and plumbing to improve the conditions of the school due to damages from clogged toilets and sinks without running water or sinks running dirty water. The health fair gave lessons in personal hygiene to young students. It also tested students for diabetes and gave blood pressure checks. Following the fair, local experts, students and school staff took on the assistance in reconstructing the school.
  7. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) students provide data to remedy water issues in Albania. Each year, 24 WPI students go to Albania to work in four-person groups on six projects to address topics that include the water issues and how to solve them. These projects include documenting environmental conditions along major rivers, developing a water education program for Albanian high schools and promoting community-based tourism in villages that have previously inaccessible caves.
  8. The Albanian Water Regulatory Authority and Consumer Protection Commission developed a partnership to alleviate water and sanitation issues. The Water Regulatory Authority and Consumer Protection Commission have created a model contract between providers of water and sewerage services and their customers. The intent of the contract is to protect consumers’ interests with provisions for consumer protection and Albania’s water and environmental resources. This addresses issues concerning the access and quality of water and sanitation. This also educates both parties on ways to improve the quality of water and sanitation services.
  9. The Western Balkan Investment Framework (WBIF) supports water supply and sanitation services among other needs for Albania. The WBIF has supported 30 projects that value up to 2 billion euros which provide better schools, energy sources, modern sanitation services and supply water for its sectors eligible for rebuilding and renovation. The achieved results include wastewater systems for over 260,000 people with expectations to exceed another 100,000, in addition to improved waste services to 180,000.
  10. Water Charity contributes to rebuilding sanitation efforts in Albania. Water Charity has started a program to work on 100 water projects in Albania, including 10 school bathroom projects. The program falls under the Let Girls Learn Initiative. It is a collaborative effort from former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps, which expands access to education for girls around the world.

Efforts from organizations in these 10 facts about sanitation in Albania have been exemplary for aiding Albania’s sanitation efforts overall. Thanks to multiple team efforts, Albania is optimistic about its conditions and overall health concerns. With more work ahead, this country is on its way to reaching EU potential.

Thomas Cintula
Photo: UN Multimedia

Poverty Among Romanians in Albania
Albania, a country located east of the heel of Italy and bordering a chunk of the Adriatic Sea, receives millions of Euros each year. However, Albania invests next to nothing, if even that, in the ghettos where a majority of the Romani population live. The result is a continuous cycle of poverty among the Romani in Albania.

Estimates determine that Romani people migrated from Northern India to Eastern Europe in the 1400s. Upon arriving, Eastern Europeans discriminated against the Romani people due to their nomadic lifestyles. Romani people lived in tribes and worked as craftsmen. Being further developed when it came to technology, the Eastern Europeans used this to justify why they treated the Romani as “less than” or “untouchables.” In Albania, this treatment is still present today.

A Large Population

Although no one seems to have accurate data of how many Romani people live in Albania, the majority of sources seem to estimate somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000. Of this amount, 80 percent of the Romani in Albania have no job and live in extreme poverty. While this is a vast percentile, the Albanian government is still not fully addressing the issue of poverty among the Romani in Albania. For instance, the country’s social services such as welfare and economic aid make it difficult, sometimes impossible, for the Romani people to access them. Because most Romani people in Albania do not register at their local municipality, the government uses this to justify them as ineligible for the social services. However, the reason Romani in Albania do not register at their local municipality is due to the discrimination they face. This causes them to live on unclaimed land, move frequently and/or bear children at home rather than in a hospital.

Issues of Education

In Albania, 52 percent of the Romani population has no education. Of the other 48 percent who do attend school, 14 percent complete elementary school, three percent complete secondary school and four percent graduate from a college or university. Because of the lack of education, many Romani are not eligible to access employment which further contributes to their poverty.

Romani children tend to not attend school for the following reasons:

  1. They have to work to help their family survive because the average monthly income of Romani households is 68 Euros. The Romani people make less than half the monthly income of non-Romani households living in the same neighborhoods.
  2. Some schools refuse to register Romani children because they do not have birth certificates. This is despite the fact that it is the law in Albania to accept all Romani students into public schools whether they have a birth certificate or not.
  3. Romani parents choose to keep their kids home from school due to their claim that the teachers discriminate against their children because of their ethnicity.

Temporary Work

Because many Romani people in Albania are unable to find a stable source of income, they often resort to small, temporary jobs in different trades such as construction and agriculture, and most of these are low pay. While the government does provide economic aid to the unemployed, very few Romani benefit from this aid, and if they do, they do not receive it for as long as they need it. On top of all of this, Romani people are continuously denied their rights to adequate housing and lack of access to clean drinking water, and often experience ill-treatment from local police for no reason other than being of Romani descent.

The ERRC

In 1996, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) emerged out of recognition of the discrimination Romani people face in multiple countries including Albania. It uses two methods to establish equal rights and opportunities for all Romani people:

  1. Strategic Litigation: In order to eliminate the discrimination against Romani people that prevents them from moving out of poverty, the ERRC fights whoever is implementing these discriminatory acts in court. It is able to do so in both domestic and international courts.
  2. Advocacy and Research: The ERRC believes that one of the best things anyone can do in order to help prevent poverty among Romanians in Albania as well as in other countries is to get the word out. One requires awareness and education of the issue in order for change to be possible.

An ERRC Victory

The ERRC completed its latest project in Albania on December 12, 2018. Due to discrimination, Romani citizens of Fushe Kruje, a city in Albania that has been home to a Romanian community since 1990, were suffering from lack of clean drinking water. While numerous Romani organizations took action to prevent this for the past 20 years, next to nothing has changed. The ERRC stepped in and went to court to fight the local municipality in Fushe Kruje for refusing to address the community’s limited access to clean water. The ERRC won the case, and the court declared that the local municipality would have to fix this issue within 30 days or receive a fine.

The ERRC envisions a world in which Romani people and non-Romani people in Albania are able to work together to challenge the racism that exists. By doing so, poverty among the Romani in Albania will end, thus, allowing them to receive access to proper education, steady employment, and ultimately, better healthier lives.

Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Facts About Poverty In Albania
Albania, a country located east of the southern tip of Italy that borders Macedonia and Greece, remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. Despite the country’s recent economic growth, employment rates continue to stay low, the education system lacks necessary resources and a significant portion of the population remains below the poverty line. Here are seven shocking facts about poverty in Albania.

7 Shocking Facts About Poverty in Albania

  1. Poverty Rate: Thirty-four percent of Albanians live in poverty. This means they make around $2 to $5.50 per day. The current poverty rate represents a significant increase compared to 2002 when 11 percent of Albanians lived in poverty.
  2. Extreme Poverty Rate: Currently, 5.8 percent of Albanians live in extreme poverty. This means they make less than $1.90 per day. According to the World Bank, the extreme poverty rate of Albanian people has not reduced very much in recent years.
  3. Household Expenditures: The expenditures in 63 percent of Albanian households, or what they need to buy to live comfortably such as food, clothes and toiletries, are 50 percent higher than their income. In other words, over half the population cannot afford half of what it needs to live on a day-to-day basis.
  4. Albanians are Migrating: Due to the unstable political situation in Albania, the business economy is weakening, and thus, poverty is deepening. Many Albanians doubt their leaders and are looking for better opportunities regarding living conditions and employment, so many are departing the country. This number of departing citizens has grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018.
  5. The Albanian Unemployment Rate: The unemployment rate in Albania is 28.7 percent. Women make up the majority of this population which results from many factors including poor social status in the family, lack of education and limited access to jobs due to the fact that most women must maintain the house and take care of the children. However, Oxfam, an international nonprofit, works to change women’s social status in Albania by educating women about the economy as well as helping women become actors of change and decision-making.
  6. Children in Albania: One-third of the total population living in poverty in Albania, or 120,000 of those citizens, are children. Approximately 12 percent of these children have no other choice but to work in order to help their families survive. Because of this, these children lose the opportunity to obtain an education. Humanium is an organization that works to end violations of children’s rights across the world. It does so by raising awareness, providing legal assistance for children whose rights have suffered violation and supporting local projects that help children.
  7. Social Allowance: Eighty thousand households in Albania rely on a social allowance. This means they receive 8,000 lek a month from their government so that they can afford basic needs such as food and clothing. One lek is equivalent to $0.0092 U.S.

Despite the barriers, there are organizations working to end poverty in Albania such as the Zakat Foundation of America. This nonprofit is in Chicago and its mission statement is as follows: “We foster charitable giving to alleviate the immediate needs of poor communities and to establish long-term development projects that ensure individual and community growth.” The foundation does so by building schools, orphanages and health clinics within these poor communities. The organization also provides food and fresh meat to the poor and brings relief during and after disasters.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Hunger in Albania

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Albania
Albania is one of the poorest of the European nations. Recently, the Albanian Government has been making strides towards economic growth, but it has only now come to realize the importance of empowering and supporting women in the country. The government is empowering women in Albania by taking a stance against violence towards women, encouraging girls’ education and increasing access for women in the workforce.

Violence at Home

The National Strategy for Gender Equality campaign was launched in 2016 to help the Albania Government implement a policy to help women achieve real equality. As it stands now, most of the women are working in agriculture on family farms, often without pay. According to the U.N., almost 60 percent of Albanian women have direct experience with in-home violence.

A woman named Tone from a village in north Albania shared her story of endurance after being in a 10-year arranged marriage full of abuse. Her family had suggested she stay with her husband in spite of the abuse because there were no support systems available for Tone and her children if they left their abusive home. When she finally had had enough, she reported the violence and, to her surprise, the police were timely, responsive and positive. They referred her to the National Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Domestic Abuse The Centre is up and coming and is currently aiding around 100 women victims annually.

Tome’s story is just one of several stories of women’s suppression in this poverty-riddled nation. In fact, one in two women are victims of abuse in Albania. For those that have not found a helping hand and been able to escape the harsh realities of inequality, the story acts as a cycle. Children who come from uneducated mothers are less likely to complete schooling if it is even available to them in the first place. The influences of home life, such as violence, inadequate funds, illness, excessive children in the home or lack of transportation, make it hard for children to succeed in school.

Promoting Education for Empowering Women in Albania

Because children from these homes require more support to make it through school without the heightened risk of drop-out, UNICEF has joined forces with the Albanian Government to promote Child-Friendly Schools (CFS).  These CFCs encompass a holistic education based on the needs of children who need the most help, especially girls. The projected outcome of the CFS plan is to make education in Albania more readily available by increasing the country’s GDP budget towards education up from 3.27 percent to 5 percent. The hope is that, with education and proper emotional support, these girls will grow up better educated and better equipped to enter the workforce.

Sociologists are quickly realizing that empowering women through education is crucial for national growth in any developing country. In 2006, Albania joined the Global Partnership for Education and has since implemented strategies for equality such as gender quotas that will make girls’ education in Albania more accessible and better equipped to serve these young ladies. The program has already seen an increase in primary and secondary school completion rates.

Many girls in Albania don’t have the same access to education due to conflict or crisis, poverty or because so many young girls are married. With access to primary and secondary education that is made more available by USAID and other activists, women will be empowered and, therefore, be able to make better choices that support their individual needs and dreams.

Improving the Future for Women in Albania

Women make up half of the Earth’s population, which equates to half of the human capital. Rigid gender roles and cultural tradition have delayed the realization of equality for some women in countries like Albania, but as change happens, government officials are seeing the benefits of humanity and equality along with the need to act. Together with the Government of Sweden, U.N. Women is raising awareness of women’s rights across each of the 10 municipalities in Albania. The good news is that in 2014 there was a 51 percent increase in female participation in the labor market.

The majority of Foreign and Domestic aid for Albanian women is geared toward equality as a whole, which means progress for women and girls in Albania. Escaping violence, becoming educated and empowered and gaining access to the workforce are all necessary for achieving equality and truly empowering women in Albania.

– Heather Benton

Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Albania
Albania, a small country located in the Balkan, has a harsh and troubling history. From a constructing of half-a-million bunkers due to fear of a foreign invasion to multiple economic crises, corruption and civil unrest, Albania has seen it all. Such disruptions have taken a toll on the Albanian people, especially its children. As the situation in Albania gradually improves, targeting child poverty has become a significant focus of the international community. In the text below, 10 facts about the child poverty in Albania are presented.

10 Facts About Child Poverty in Albania

  1. Albania has a total population of 2.8 million. Out of this number, the number of Albanians under the age of 19 is around 1 million, which represents more than a third of the population. This places Albania’s populace in the second place of youngest countries in all of Europe, that creates an ever-increasing urgency to end child poverty and break the cycle of poverty in the country.
  2. The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) outlines the most significant threats to the Albanian children as growing economic disparities, social exclusion and discrimination violence and exploitation, domestic violence, lack of access to health and education services and, finally, malnutrition.
  3. In 2012, approximately 17.4 percent of Albanian children lived in absolute poverty while 1.8 percent lived with families who had no income. Furthermore, there is a measurable gap between poverty levels in rural and urban areas. However, this gap has narrowed to a difference of only 1.7 percent of those living in poverty in rural and urban areas.
  4. The Albanian government launched the Economic Aid (E.A.) programme in hopes of transferring cash and assistance to the country’s poorest. But by 2008, coverage had fallen to less than 7 percent due to stricter eligibility criteria and results showed only 0.4 percent of people lifted out of poverty.
  5. UNICEF attributes one-third of child deaths to malnutrition in Albania and has seen rates directly affected by wealth, geographic location, different residence (urban or rural) and education level of the mother. Child poverty and malnutrition in Albania are especially more prominent in resource-poor rural households and urban neighborhoods with high unemployment rates. According to a 2010 survey, up to 43 percent of these households had difficulties in providing food for their families on a yearly basis.
  6. Besides malnutrition, access to health services and other factors greatly hinder young Albanians from living healthy lives. For instance, the mortality rate of children under 5 in Albania is 17 per 1,000 children. In urban areas, the rate drops to 13 children, but more than doubles to 28 in rural parts of the country. On top of these statistics, primary health care and basic health services are severely underfunded and 90 percent of Albanian families cannot pay for their health care.
  7. The Romani (or Gypsy) children living in Albania are particularly at risk of poverty due to the discrimination they experience and the lack of institutions that support their cultural and linguistic background. In 2011, UNICEF conducted research on the Romani population and found that 40 percent are illiterate, only 25 percent of Romani children attend pre-school or early education institutions and 75 percent are considered very poor.
  8. While drop-out rates are only about 0.37 percent and the percent of children who never attended school is at 1.05 percent, the quality of education is still a challenge for the Albanian government. The vast majority of funding is given to teacher salaries and infrastructure (important parts of the successful educational system), but too little is given to development, services and quality of providing education.
  9. Due to the social and cultural attitudes of Albania, physical and phycological violence against children are often tolerated or even encouraged. A UNICEF study in 2006 revealed that most adults think physical or phycological violence has positive effects on children. Moreover, 50 percent of children have absorbed these ideas and believe that violence is needed at home and in school. In addition, children are exploited into forced labor since there basic social services and safety nets are lacking.
  10. Despite child poverty in Albania, UNICEF and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have done tremendous work through humanitarian aid and action. For example, UNICEF has largely focused on lobbying and working with the Albanian government and international community in providing long-term protections for the children in the country. As of 2016, UNICEF and the Albanian government have launched ambitious reforms in the social, economic, health and educational sectors in order to curtail childhood poverty. Furthermore, USAID has contributed nearly $500 million in foreign aid to Albania since 1992 with the goal of strengthening democracy, curtailing corruption, promoting civil society and gender equality and creating a more equitable economy.

Perhaps the biggest organization influencing poverty in Albania is the European Union (EU). While Albania is a candidate for the EU, the organization is requiring that the country progresses on political and economic reforms, improves governance and the rule of law and observes human rights standards.

Albania has shown that it values a future of being an E.U. member, which would be a significant step to building a stronger relationship between the United States and Albania. But in the first place, foreign aid will is needed to create a system capable of protecting every child and ending child poverty in Albania.

– Tanner Helem
Photo: Flickr


On December 1, 2016, the BBC reported that Albania’s clandestine drug industry may be producing almost half of the nation’s total GDP on a yearly basis. The recent aspiration of the Albanian government to become admitted into the European Union, though, has successfully and drastically accelerated efforts to crack down on the mafias, corruption and poverty in Albania which allow these occurrences to take place.

But first, the events beg the question: how has the situation gotten so bad? Albania has been stable in recent decades, although not on a large enough scale. For instance, while the capital of Tirana had seen significant growth in services and order, most of the rest of the country was neglected. Poor and impoverished citizens in the rural regions were left to fend for themselves – and found a better life through the growth of illegal drugs. These are just a few examples of the effects of poverty in Albania backed by research.

In response to this, Prime Minister Edi Rama showed eagerness in establishing prosperous policies and projects. For instance, the government of Albania is attempting to curb issues mentioned heretofore by providing financial services to rural areas, establishing consumer protection and promoting tourism throughout the nation. Also, police salaries have risen between 10 and 17 percent to steer away bribery.

Of course, more turbulent methods are also being pursued — Rama has promised to deal with the more aggressive concerns by expanding currently existing assets. With the help of the Italian government, and significantly more senior officers, keeping track of and attacking these illicit organizations has become easier. For instance, Rama oversaw the besiege of Lazarat in 2014, a village in southern Albania, where civilians ineffectively utilized military-grade weaponry against police.

At this rate, the flow of certain drugs throughout Europe should significantly decrease since Albania is one of the root causes of this spread. Today, Albania has opened up more government jobs to citizens while it also works to rebuild and refurnish once-neglected regions. Programs to promote rehabilitation are also a must to not only help in reducing poverty in Albania, but to also further the nation as a whole. As a result of these efforts, Rama hopes Albania will be accepted into the EU in the early 2020s.

– Kristopher Nasse

Photo: Flickr