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Water Quality in AlbaniaAlbania is located in southern Europe, north of Greece. Albanians call themselves shqiptarë, which means “sons of eagles“. Albania gained independence in 1912 and was ruled as a monarchy between World War I and World War II. After WWII, it was a communist state, but new democratic parties developed after communist regimes failed.

25 years later, Albania gained candidate status in the EU after many attempts, but still faces challenges such as finding an economic niche and establishing rule of law. Despite this, water quality in Albania is one thing that has improved over the years.

A 2003 report from the World Bank stated that there was plenty of water available, but the water quality in Albania was compromised because of the poor conditions of its water infrastructure. The country lacked sufficient treatment facilities, the chemical suppliers were unreliable and the maintenance was unsatisfactory. The decaying supply and treatment facilities posed a major health threat and were believed to be a major contributing factor to infant mortality.

In 2015, the European Environment Agency reported that there have been significant measures taken to improve the water quality in Albania. Authorities have made efforts to reduce pollution, and between 2012 and 2015 the quality of bathing waters in Albania has improved significantly.

The Tirana Times reported in May that 86 percent of the bathing waters in Albania met the standards of the EU. In 2016 and 2017, Albanian authorities that reported 92 bathing waters were considered excellent or satisfactory, compared to 78 in 2015, which has helped attract more tourism.

Albania has many challenges to overcome, but the improvement of water quality in Albania is a step in the right direction. The increased tourism as a result of the improved water quality may also help stimulate the economy, which can help it more quickly overcome other obstacles.

Fernando Vazquez

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases In Albania
Albania is a country located in Southeastern Europe bordering the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. To the south it neighbors Greece and to the north, Kosovo. In 1912, the country declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire but was quickly conquered by Germany in 1943, and then ruled by the USSR until 1960.

After gaining total independence in the 1990s, the country has suffered from a continually depressed economy. This depressed economy has caused economic hardship in the region for many of its citizens. This article’s purpose is to elaborate on the most common diseases in Albania

1. Ischemic Heart Disease

The most common disease in Albania is Ischemic heart disease. Ischemia is an illness which causes blood flow restriction in a particular part of the body. Ischemic heart disease restricts blood flow to the heart and without proper health care, the disease can lead to stroke and heart disease if left untreated. When measured in 2015, 44 percent of deaths occurred as a result of untreated Ischemic Heart Disease.

2. Lung Cancer

Another of the most common disease in Albania is lung cancer. Around 64 percent of Albanian men smoke tobacco on a daily basis which is one of the leading causes of the illness. Some effects of lung cancer include continued coughing, weight loss, chest pain and difficulty swallowing. If the disease is left untreated, it has the potential to spread to other parts of the body. This spread has the potential to cause more severe health effects which can include death. About 39.7 percent of deaths in 2015 were caused by lung cancer.

3. Chronic Kidney Disease

When measured in 2015, about 29 percent of deaths occurred from Chronic Kidney Disease. This condition describes the gradual loss of kidney function and can be extremely dangerous due to the kidney’s important role in the body. On top of filtering the waste of the body, the kidneys also filter blood. Without properly functioning kidneys, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and waste can build up in the body and cause premature death.

Improvements

The most common diseases in Albania take numerous lives every year, and the government is doing all it can to combat this phenomenon. The Albanian government established the WHO country office on top of increasing its funding of public health care. WHO has promoted education to the country’s citizens to help them avoid contracting these disease, and this work by WHO, alongside an increase in the government’s spending on health care, is sure to help reduce the number of deaths caused by the most common diseases in Albania.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Google

Poverty Rate in Albania
Albania is a country located on the Balkan Peninsula with a large coastline facing the Adriatic Sea. The country has a Muslim majority due to the continued influence of the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the country for centuries. After World War II, Albania became a communist state. It was only in 1990 that the country became a democratic country. Although this shift was beneficial for human rights in the country, the dramatic change has negatively impacted the poverty rate in Albania.

When Albania shifted from a communist country to a democratic one, the GDP of the country saw a sharp decline. Between the years 1990 and 1992, the country’s GDP dropped from $2.1 billion to $709 million. In recent years, the GDP has been growing at around three percent per year, and, in 2013, the GDP growth was measured to be 3.5 percent.

This dramatic shift in GDP caused many living in the country during the communist rule to leave the country for more prosperous European states. The dramatic change in GDP also caused the poverty rate in Albania to increase.

The last time the incidence of poverty had been measured was in 2012, and at that time 14.3 percent of the population was living under conditions of extreme poverty. This change was a vast improvement to the 25.4 percent of people living in poverty in 2002. However, Albania has seen a recent increase in its poverty rate at the beginning of the 2010s. Many of these people tend to live in the mountainous regions, where economic investment does not make sense to many businesses.

Many who explore the country see the nation’s beautiful scenery and natural beauty. However, many people visiting fail to see the hidden poverty in the nation. Many citizens who live in the mountainous regions of the country struggle to put food on their tables every day and the towns they live in lack thriving businesses to create economic activity.

There is hope for the people struggling with the high poverty rate in Albania, despite its recent increases. World Vision is a nongovernmental organization working within the nation to help the most vulnerable of people in Albania. The organization strives to provide sponsorship opportunities, educational outlets, healthcare and economic development in the towns most affected by the shift to a democratically led government. This work done by World Vision, as well as the rising GDP in Albania, is likely to help keep the poverty rate in Albania from rising any further.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr


Non-communicable diseases are the top diseases in Albania. Overall, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and respiratory diseases are the three deadliest. The annual mortality rate of cardiovascular diseases is 54.3 percent. For cancer, the annual mortality rate is 17.7 percent and for respiratory diseases, the mortality rate falls just below six percent.

Cardiovascular Diseases
The top diseases in Albania consist of various cardiovascular diseases. They are the deadliest of all non-communicable diseases. In 2013, the three deadliest cardiovascular diseases were strokes, ischemic heart disease and other cardiovascular and circulatory diseases.

These common yet deadly diseases made up 94.1 percent of all deaths cause from cardiovascular diseases in Albania. In fact, strokes were fatal to 197.5 people out of every 100,000. Unfortunately, since 1990, its mortality rate has increased by 124 percent. At the same time, ischemic heart disease killed another 172.7 per 100,000. Since 1990, the mortality rate for ischemic heart disease has increased by 170 percent.

Slightly more than 23 out of every 100,000 persons were killed by other cardiovascular and circulatory diseases.

Cancer
Cancer is the second-deadliest of all non-communicable diseases. In 2013, the most common forms included cancer of the stomach, liver, trachea, bronchus and lungs. These made up 49.2 percent of all deaths caused by cancer. The mortality rate has also increased.

As a matter of fact, stomach cancer killed 16.6 per 100,000 and its mortality rate has increased by 49 percent since 1990. Moreover, liver cancer killed 16.2 per 100,000 and its mortality rate has increased by 101 percent.

Combined, tracheal, bronchial and lung cancer killed 34.2 people out of every 100,000. Since 1990, its mortality rate has increased by 111 percent.

Chronic Respiratory Diseases
The third-deadliest non-communicable diseases are respiratory. In 2013, the most deadly chronic respiratory diseases were obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and interstitial lung disease and pulmonary sarcoidosis. These made up 93.5 percent of deaths which result from chronic respiratory diseases.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), killed 31.3 people out of every 100,000. COPD’s mortality rate has grown by 49 percent since 1990.

Asthma killed another 7.8 per 100,000. Its mortality rate has sadly increased by 56 percent. Interstitial lung disease and pulmonary sarcoidosis killed 3.3 persons out of 100,000. In addition, its mortality rate has increased by 70 percent.

Fortunately, healthcare in Albania is provided to everyone. However, the government is having a hard time meeting the needs of all citizens. As a result, the World Bank is working on the health system improvement project, in order to improve the country’s health system. Hopefully, this will help alleviate the top diseases in Albania.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Albanian RefugeesThe Albanian exodus has been the largest emigration movement in Europe since the population movements after World War II. It had been caused by the collapse of the communist regime in 1991 and the following economic crisis. Here are 10 facts about Albanian refugees:

  1. The first wave of immigration occurred in 1991 when 20,000 Albanians squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder head to Italy on the cargo ship La Vlora.
  2. More Albanian refugees live outside of Albania than within. Countries like Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States all have Albanian diasporas.
  3. About $500 million was sent home by Albanian refugees in 1996 from these countries, supporting the survival of the people remaining in Albania and the development of the private sector.
  4. Albania’s population is approximately three million, and about 10 million Albanians are living outside of the country.
  5. Roughly 600,000 Albanian refugees work in Greece.
  6. About 480,000 ethnic Albanian refugees entered into Albania in 1999 because of the war in neighboring Kosovo. This influx strained the country’s resources.
  7. The unemployment rate is incredibly high in Albania, where a small and overcrowded job market doesn’t allow new businesses to emerge.

However, things are changing for the better in Albania, and the future is bright for the nation. While the country is still struggling with outcomes of the refugee crises of the early ’90s, the Albanian government considers tourism as a key strategic economic sector, touting its potential to act as a catalyst for the development of the rest of the country.

Yana Emets

Photo: Flickr

Education in Albania
Education in Albania is a work in progress. In the past decade, Albania has partnered with UNICEF and the World Bank in order to ensure higher quality education, efficient education spending and more accessible schooling.

After the fall of communism in Albania in 1990, a reorganization plan was announced regarding education in Albania. The government wanted to expand compulsory education and revamp curriculums. However, Albania faced economic and social problems in the following years that would make the occurrence of educational difficult.

Despite these challenges, education in Albania is slowly improving. According to UNICEF, between 2002 and 2008 the percentage of Albanians living below the poverty line dropped from 25.4 percent to 12.4 percent.

The Albanian government has put in an effort to improve its education system and increase schooling access. In 2008, Albania increased its compulsory schooling to nine years. Additionally, Albania increased teachers’ salaries by 14 percent and the Ministry of Education, partnering with UNICEF, launched a program that would provide child-friendly school frameworks.

Albania, which currently has a net primary school enrollment ratio of around 94 percent, is well on its way to achieving universal primary school enrollment. As of 2010, Albania’s primary and pre-primary enrollment rates stood above the Central and Eastern European average. According to the World Bank, however, education in Albania still needs improvement.

Experts believe that Albania needs to work on efficient education spending while also increasing the overall quality of schools. The World Bank has praised education in Albania for focusing more on pre-primary education in contrast to other countries in the region, however, disparities still persist, especially for low-income groups.

For example, UNICEF found that about 74 percent of families living in poverty are unable to afford school books, making education accessibility difficult for those living in poor conditions.

Prime Minister Edi Rama agrees with the World Bank and UNICEF, stating, “We are working in very close cooperation with the World Bank, other international institutions, and EU, within the framework of the Western Balkans Initiative, to include education sector in their programs, so that we can ensure increased financing for education.”

With the help of organizations like the World Bank and UNICEF, education in Albania will undergo positive changes, which will ultimately strengthen Albania’s global product and service markets.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

Kosovo War
The Kosovo War was a quick and highly destructive conflict that displaced 90 percent of the population. The severity of the unrest in Kosovo and the involvement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) brought the Kosovo conflict to international attention in the late 1990’s. The conflict led to the displacement of thousands and lasting tension between Serbs and Albanians. The brutality of the war is largely credited with launching The Borgen Project, a humanitarian organization that has helped hundreds of thousands of people.

 

10 Facts about the Kosovo War

 

    1. The Kosovo War was waged in the Serbian province of Kosovo from 1998 to 1999. Ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo faced the pressure of Serbs fighting for control of the region. Albanians also opposed the government of Yugoslavia, which was made up of modern day Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia.
    2. Muslim Albanians were the ethnic majority in Kosovo. The president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, refused to recognize the rights of the majority because Kosovo was an area sacred to the Serbs. He planned to replace Albanian language and culture with Serbian institutions.
    3. The international community failed to address the escalation of tension between the Albanians and the Serbs. In doing so, they inadvertently supported radicals in the region. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo formed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the early 1990s. The militant group began attacks on Serbian police and politicians and were engaged in an all-out uprising by 1998.
    4. Serbian and Yugoslav forces tried to fight growing KLA support through oppressive tactics and violence. The government destroyed villages and forced people to leave their homes. They massacred entire villages. Many people fled their homes.
    5. As the conflict grew worse, international intervention rose. The Contact Group (consisting of the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Russia) demanded a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serbian forces from Kosovo and the return of refugees. Yugoslavia at first agreed but ultimately failed to implement the terms of the agreement.
    6. Yugoslav and Serbian forces engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign throughout the duration of the war. By the end of May 1999, 1.5 million people had fled their homes. At the time, that constituted approximately 90 percent of Kosovo’s population.
    7. Diplomatic negotiations between Kosovar and Serbian delegations began in France in 1999, but Serbian officials refused to cooperate. In response, NATO began a campaign of airstrikes against Serbian targets, focusing mainly on destroying Serbian government buildings and infrastructure. The bombings caused further flows of refugees into neighboring countries and the deaths of several civilians.
    8. In June 1999, NATO and Yugoslavia signed a peace accord to end the Kosovo War. The Yugoslav government agreed to troop withdrawal and the return of almost one million ethnic Albanians and half a million general displaced persons. Unfortunately, tensions between Albanians and Serbs continued into the 21st century. Anti-Serb riots broke out in March 2004 throughout the Kosovo region. Twenty people were killed and over 4,000 Serbs and other minorities were displaced.
    9. In February 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Subsequently, Yugoslavia ceased to exist in 2003 and became the individual countries of Serbia and Montenegro. Serbia, along with numerous other countries, refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
    10. At the end of 2016, a tribunal was established in the International Criminal Court to try Kosovars for committing war crimes against ethnic minorities and political opponents. Additionally, an EU taskforce set up in 2011 found evidence that members of the KLA committed these crimes after the war ended. Previously, the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia tried several the KLA members.


Overall, the Kosovo War was one of Europe’s most chaotic conflicts, leaving lasting impressions on all those living in the region. Not only has the conflict been coined with the terms genocide and crimes against humanity, but the involvement and bombings from NATO also caused widespread controversy.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

 

poverty in albania
Poverty in Albania remains a problem throughout the country. Albania is currently one of the poorest countries in Europe. Nearly one quarter of the national population lives in extreme poverty, surviving off of two US dollars a day. That is a total of over 800,000 people.

The majority of the poverty comes from the rural areas, where a large portion of the population lives. Fifty seven percent of Albania’s population inhabits these regions of the country. That means over a half of the country is immersed in the economic struggle to provide food for their family.

Cause of Poverty in Albania

The issues of Albania’s high poverty levels stem from the adjustments their country has made politically. Albania was once immersed in a rigid communist state that operated under a planned economy. The government allocated all of the resources throughout the country. Finally becoming free of communist control and developing into a democratic state created a free market economy. The citizens could then provide for themselves and market themselves to make a living.

The free market economy struggles in Albania due to its isolated villages leading to a lack of available consumers. Due to this rural, spread-out geography, farmers are unable to travel to other markets and sell their crops. In such a setting it is difficult for a sustainable economy to thrive and for jobs to be created, and these low incomes and staggering unemployment keep this cycle of poverty continuing.

Albania boasts a rich landscape and thriving culture that is very attractive to tourists. To the citizens who inhabit those mountains however, it is a land of inopportunity. Nearly eighty percent of incomes come from some form of assistance, whether it be social protection, economic assistance, or disability payments. In order for these families to survive, change is needed. Economic opportunities must be provided to the people of Albania.

– William Norris

Sources: Rural Poverty Portal, World Vision
Photo: IFAD

Albania
Albania is known for its quirks and major differences if, indeed, it is mentioned at all. It is a smaller country that can be found in the Balkan Peninsula with a population of approximately 3 million. One of the first things to remember about this country is that a nod means “no” and shaking the head in the other direction means “yes.” The second thing to remember is if there is a stuffed toy hanging from a building, it ought not to be removed.

Yes, in this country, weather-beaten rabbits are hung by their ears, scarecrow-looking objects are posted by balconies, and they are very important in keeping the peace of mind of Albanian cities. Like many Middle Eastern countries, these inhabitants seek to protect themselves against the Evil Eye.

The instrument that is used to provide this kind of protection is called the dordolec and the soft toys are also called kukull. Elizabeth Gowing, reporter for the BBC, interviewed an owner of a furniture store: “‘It stops the evil eye from seeing our money,’… He explains that at first he hadn’t hung a monkey up when he was building this place. ‘And then the police came. My son went out and bought a monkey and we’ve not had any trouble since.’”

The idea behind this practice is that the passer-by fixates on the dordolec and thus does not covet the property of the house it belongs to. There’s no direct correlation between these objects and a religious belief per se.

Michael Harrison from the UK says, “In Albania such beliefs can be found in all religious communities, Muslim, Orthodox or Catholic – in fact I encountered less examples of the dordolec in the north, in the area around Skhodër, where the Catholic Church is particularly strong.”

Religion doesn’t always relate directly to the customs of a country. A writer from the travel blog, A Dangerous Business, says, “In fact, most of Albania’s current reality can be traced back to that paranoid leader, Enver Hoxha, who ruled with increasing suspicion of the wider world until his death in 1985.” In driving through Albania, one might see numerous bunkers because Enver Hoxha generally isolated himself and had a strong fear of the outside world.

Now, visitors of Albania can expect to be welcomed with open arms with the natural expectation that national customs will be learned and respected.

Anna Brailow

Sources: BBC, Dangerous Business, Michael Harrison
Photo: Flickr

minority_groups_in_albania
Since the fall of socialism in 1991, Albania has made great strides in establishing itself as an economic and political power in Europe. The country has joined the United Nations, NATO, World Trade Organization and the Council of Europe. It is poised to join the European Union.

One of the factors holding the country back has been the exclusion of its minorities, primarily the Roma and Egyptians. This exclusion has left 75 percent of Roma and 70 percent of Egyptians categorized as very poor, compared to the 28.8 percent of Albanians with the same rating.

This socioeconomic status is due largely to of a lack of education, employment and basic infrastructure.  This has led many members of these groups to seek wages in the informal labor market, which includes prostitution, women and child trafficking and drug trafficking.

While the government has claimed to include these minority groups in Albania, Egyptians have not been given minority status. The government claims they have not met the criteria necessary. Egyptians must share the same language (other than Albanian), have documentation to prove its distinct ethnic origin or national identity and have distinct customs and traditions or a link to a kinship state outside of the country.

However, the Roma have met these criteria, and, as of 2005, the Albanian government has signed up for the Decade of Roma, a World Bank initiative designed to help in four key areas: education, employment, health and housing and gender and non-discrimination. To date however, the results are not very encouraging, as the number of Roma still labeled as very poor continues to rise.

Against this very bleak picture, several rays of hope have begun to shine on the Roma and Egyptian communities from several organizations. One of these organizations is the United Nations Development Plan, implemented by the Ministry of Social Welfare and funded by the European Union.

These organizations have constructed a project designed to promote social inclusion of Roma and Egyptians through vocational training to increase their employability and strengthen artisan and entrepreneurship skills, especially for women and girls.

The training entailed learning how to cultivate medicinal plants. It was a week-long program where participants were trained how to cultivate, collect and dry medicinal plants. They also learned how to start a business. Additionally, women who owned pieces of land were given sage seeds to help get them started.

Within six months, several of the women who took the course were entrepreneurs employing up to three other women in their businesses. The UNDP recruited sage specialists to assist farmers throughout the process and help them in timing their sales and marketing their product.

Luan Ahmetaj, Director of the Medicinal Plant Institute in Tirana, Albania said, “What makes this intervention unique is the involvement of women in business dominated and run by men. This contributes in empowering those communities.”

There is a huge potential for Albanian medicinal plants. According to the U.S. Agricultural Department, 57 percent of sage imports into the U.S. come from Albania. There are close to 300 members of Roma and Egyptian communities in the regions of Berat, Korca and Vlora that are now benefiting from the initiative, almost half of them women.

Another aspect of this program has been the support of interventions into infrastructure identified by Roma and Egyptian Community Councils, such as kindergartens, road rehabilitations and other interventions. These programs also support the Government of Albania in its efforts to achieve the objectives set forth in the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005 – 2015. It also promotes respect for human rights and appreciation for cultural diversity, as prerequisites for the country’s EU accession.

Frederick Wood

Sources: Minority Rights 1, Minority Rights 2, UNDP, UN Albania, ERRC
Photo: Flickr