After the Earthquake: UNDP mobilizes to support Albania

UNDP albania
5 min readDec 20, 2019


One day after the earthquake

A mother of three was found under the rubble hugging her three children.

A 24-year-old student’s dream of becoming a dermatologist was cut short.

A family of 8 was found under the rubble when their four-story concrete home collapsed. The youngest was a 2-year-old. There was only one single survivor from that family— a 17 year old boy, frozen with shock and unable to utter a word.

A 33-year-old had promised her husband, who passed away 2 years ago, that their daughter would follow his footsteps and become a painter; they both died.

A little boy asked a journalist: Can you please take a photo of me? I have none left.

This is how the morning of the 26th of November found Albania after the 6,4 magnitude earthquake struck killing 51.

More than a thousand aftershocks, some with a magnitude of more than 5.0, further damaged buildings and terrified residents.

People lost their loved ones, their homes, their memories.

How did UNDP respond?

In the face of this situation, a national and international network of solidarity was activated to provide aid and relief to those affected.

To respond to the recovery efforts, UNDP deployed a team of six international advisers for the post-disaster emergency response and early recovery efforts.

A team of international experts were deployed in Albania

In partnership with the Government, including the Emergency Committee, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the EU Civil Protection Unit, UNDP applied the Household and Building Damage Assessment methodology.

UNDP Resident Representative Limya Eltayeb speaks about UNDP support after the earthquake

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 generated allows for emergency relief and for planning for recovery.

The methodology was tested in the field in the presence of the Albanian Government authorities and UNDP. The Government adapted it to their needs, and national institutions and engineers are currently undertaking the building damage assessment in the seven affected municipalities.

The UNDP Resident Representative in Albania Limya Eltayeb underlined:” We are happy we could mobilize international expertise immediately through our global networks.This is one of the roles of UNDP to connect knowledge and digital solutions from one continent to another”

This is what the earthquake left behind.

Harnessing the power of technology and reaching the most remote and most vulnerable

The earthquake impacted thousands of lives and livelihoods, sweeping away what took citizens years to build- trapping them in deeper vulnerability and exacerbating existing poverty. The winter found them in hotels but also in tents and living with relatives. Elderly, children, and those living with disabilities were severely affected and find it hard to cope with the post-earthquake situation.

Talking to communities in Ishem, Durres-one of the most earthquake-affected communities

“ It has taken us 15 years to build this house bit by bit.We no longer have it and will never be able to rebuild it.” said Anila 32 year-old who currently lives in a tent outside her damaged house with her husband and mother-in-law who has a health conditions and needs kidney dialysis three times per week”

Anila and her mother in law live in a tent outside their house

Drita, a 10-year-old from Ishem Durres says “she is still shaken by the tremors that keep recurring over and over again”.

In partnership with the Ministry of Economy and Finance, UNDP mobilized its staff and numerous volunteers in addition to ministry staff who are travelling to hard to reach locations, 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.

Fabrizio Andreuzzi, UNDP crisis recovery expert explains why reliable data is important for recovery.

To date over 10.000 people, 2199 households have been assessed.

UNDP staff on the ground

UNDP signed an agreement with the Albanian National Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) 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 and for the recovery plan to follow.

UNDP Resident Representative Limya Eltayeb and INSTAT Director Elsa Dhuli sign an agreement to implement SILC

In the aftermath of this disaster, the Government of Albania needs to quickly assess damaged buildings and ensure citizens return to their homes, kick start the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) and develop a post disaster recovery framework. The PDNA estimates damages and losses and is the foundation to a holistic recovery programme that promotes equity and inclusion.

UNDP teams on the ground

The PDNA is a government led assessment process supported by the European Union, the World Bank and the United Nations in Albania. As part of the UN family, UNDP is leading the sector work in community infrastructure; tourism, employment and culture; and co-leading work with the EU in the areas of Disaster Risk Reduction and Civil Protection and Social Protection.

24 days have passed since Albanians experienced one of their worst catastrophes. Amid death and debris, people are still under shock and psychological trauma. But there is also a wave of solidarity and support from people, neighboring countries and international organizations. There is also hope..