Albania is exposed to a range of natural hazards, and it experiences recurring heavy rains, floods, landslides, droughts, and extreme summer heat, which can cause wildfires. Because of its location straddling the boundary of the Eurasian and Adriatic tectonic plates, Albania is also highly exposed to earthquakes that, while much rarer, can cause large-scale devastation. On November 26, 2019, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck northwestern Albania, killing 51 people and displacing over 17,000. According to a Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) carried out by the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Bank, the total value of damaged or destroyed infrastructure was estimated at over $1.1 billion, or 6.4 percent of the country’s 2019 gross domestic product, highlighting the earthquake’s impact on Albania’s livelihoods and economy.
Even before the earthquake struck, the government of Albania had been modernizing its national disaster risk management (DRM) framework. In June of 2019 it adopted a law that codified forward-looking DRM at the national, regional, and local levels. Building upon this groundwork, the Albanian government has sought to improve the capacities of its line ministries and has dedicated institutions to effectively implement this new law.
In FY22, GFDRR supported the government of Albania through the Strengthening Disaster Resilience in Albania project. This activity, implemented from 2018 to 2022, provided technical assistance to the following three core DRM pillars in Albania: (1) helping to improve disaster risk and loss information collection, consolidation, access, and use; (2) strengthening the capacities of municipalities to budget for DRM activities and to collect and utilize disaster data for decision-making; and (3) enhancing financial protection by providing recommendations for improving Albania’s disaster risk financing capacity.
Knowledge and oversight of all disaster-relevant data and geospatial information available in Albania has increased considerably because of this technical assistance. Specifically, consolidating and improving access to existing geospatial risk information, as well as improving post-disaster loss assessment, have been informed directly in line with the responsibilities of the NCPA and the State Authority on Geospatial Information (ASIG).
Based on detailed technical analysis and consultations with relevant stakeholders, three technical reports with about 40 recommendations in six areas were produced by the task team. They are intended to improve: (1) the functionality, accessibility, and application of the national geoportal; (2) the collection and management of risk-related data; (3) the legal framework, standards, and methodology for disaster damage and loss assessment; (4) the actual process of post-disaster data collection and analysis; (5) institutional capacities in the damage and loss assessment process; and (6) the existing DesInventar Sendai open-source software system.
As reflected in the World Bank’s new Country Partnership Framework (CPF), Albania’s development aspirations and plans are now more risk-informed and prioritize resilience investments, thanks in part to GFDRR’s efforts through this activity. Many of this project’s outputs are already being used by the government of Albania to strengthen its strategic and operational framework and capacities for DRM at a central level. They are also strengthening a municipal disaster risk reduction (DRR) framework and local response capacities in harmonization with the national DRR system, supported by international partners. In addition, the World Bank’s Transport Global Practice has been using these outputs to better inform and design a project focused on building resilient bridges.
Post-disaster and disaster risk data are inherently linked and are essential components for a national DRM information repository. This repository can serve as a catalogue for risk data, which—coupled with the advantages of modern technologies—can orient authorities and institutions around the world who are investing in smart, automated systems toward risk-informed decision-making.