State of emergency in Albania as Red Cross responds to floods

Published: 2 October 2002

A desperate winter awaits thousands of rural people caught in Albania's worst floods in decades. Homes have been destroyed, livestock drowned, and food reserves lost in inundated lowland areas. The Albanian Red Cross has warned the consequences could be catastrophic without ongoing help.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies today launched an appeal for 571,000 Swiss francs in support of an Albanian Red Cross programme to distribute food and non-food items to 20,000 people over the coming three months. The Albanian Red Cross has already begun a relief operation, providing food, blankets and hygiene parcels to families in six prefectures (Lezha, Berat, Durres, Gjirokaster, Fier and Shkoder). Additional, monthly relief packages will be delivered as of November to vulnerable families.

A week of torrential rain has brought disaster similar to the devastating summer floods in Central Europe. Around 26,000 hectares of arable land are under water and a state of emergency has been declared in six prefectures. Lezha prefecture, north of Tirana, and Berat, south of the capital, have suffered the greatest damage and Red Cross assessment teams have found 3,300 families in serious trouble there. Across Lezha, five municipalities and 22 villages have been inundated.

Elsewhere bridges have collapsed, landslides have occurred, and roads have been blocked, leaving many remote communities isolated. Wide areas have suffered power cuts as electricity stations have been flooded, sanitation problems are reported, and water supplies have been disrupted.

The floods will only aggravate widespread social deprivation in one of Europe's poorest countries. While the government can ill afford the bill for damaged infrastructure, the loss of livelihood will be overwhelming for already impoverished people. According to official statistics, a quarter of the 3.1 million population lives below the poverty line, there are high levels of endemic unemployment, and malnourishment is growing. Over the past decade many people fleeing the poverty of remoter areas have settled in Lezha's lowland regions.For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Budapest
John Sparrow, Regional Information Delegate - Tel: + 361 248 33 04 / + 3620 340 24 60
In Geneva
Marie-Françoise Borel, Information Officer - Tel: + 41 22 730 43 46 / + 41 79 217 33 45