WFP has announced the end of its almost decade-long operation in Albania, marked by the official closure of its office in Tirana on 28 February.
We have prolonged our operations in Albania to make sure that the country was indeed getting back on its feet. Now we feel that the time is right to leave
Mushtaq Qureshi, WFP Country Director in Albania
“It’s clear that fewer people need food assistance now. In future, we hope that those who will require it will be assisted by the government,” said Amir Abdulla, WFP’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
“We leave the country with the conviction that the most vulnerable people will be taken care of,” he added.
WFP has been providing emergency assistance to Albania since 1997 following a period of economic upheavals.
In 1999, it helped the country during the Kosovo crisis when thousands of Kosovars fled to Albania in search of refuge.
“At the peak of the crisis, Albania was already grappling with poverty and spiralling unemployment, and then the refugees arrived,” explained Abdulla.
“WFP’s assistance helped the country recover from an extremely difficult period.”
The influx of refugees in March 1999 literally exploded over a matter of days, as tens of thousands of hungry refugees streamed into Albanian towns and cities fleeing the violence of Kosovo.
In response, WFP launched a major logistical operation, ensuring there was enough food to feed the new arrivals.
In 2001, WFP’s assistance in Albania shifted from relief to development and was primarily aimed at alleviating poverty, improving household food security and strengthening the participation of rural communities.
Activities focused on three key areas: communal forestry and pasture management; social sector assistance for women and community-asset building through Food-for-Work (FFW).
Assisting the vulnerable
In July 2002, WFP extended its programme with an 18-month relief operation for the construction of community assets.
It assisted some 63,000 people living mainly in the mountainous areas.
Then in April 2004, the UN agency launched a further 18-month operation to assist more than 133,000 Albanians who were still economically very vulnerable.
Back on its feet
Today, indicators such as malnutrition and poverty levels, which WFP uses to decide where to provide assistance, are far below those registered in many African and Asian countries.
During the past nine years, WFP has provided food assistance to Albania worth over US$68 million thanks to the contribution of donor countries like Japan, the United Kingdom, United States, European Community, Canada, Netherlands, Norway Switzerland, Italy and Denmark.
“We have prolonged our operations in Albania to make sure that the country was indeed getting back on its feet. Now we feel that the time is right to leave,” said Mushtaq Qureshi, WFP’s Country Director in Albania.