Country profile

Albania map Albania is situated in South-Eastern Europe, bordered by the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea, between Greece, Serbia and Montenegro. It has a total area of 28,750 square kilometres, with a coastline of 362 kilometres. Albania has a population of 3,129,678 (World Bank 2005) with a population density of 109 people per square kilometre. The free and uncontrolled movement of population allowed since 1990 has changed the urban/rural population ratio in Albania.

Albania has a recorded growth rate in the annual GDP of 0.6 per cent. The percentage annual population growth recorded is 0.58 per cent.

Agricultural land constitutes 41 per cent of the geographical area of the country and contributes to 23 per cent of the country's GDP.

Service sectors contribute to 56 per cent of the GDP Nearly 30 percent of Albanians live below a poverty line of 2 USD per capita a day.

With the political changes in 1990, Albania has launched new economic programs, including price and exchange system liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a firm income policy to move towards a more open-market economy. The economy is encouraged by annual remittances from abroad of USD 600-800 million.

Risk assessment

Albania is vulnerable to flood, earthquake, landslide, drought, extreme temperature, windstorm and high snowfall (including avalanche and epidemic). The country is highly vulnerable to earthquake, flood and landslide. EM-DAT shows (figure 2) that, during 1974-2006, floods accounted for the major share of disaster events (32 per cent), followed by earthquakes (18 per cent). There were two technological hazards reported during this period; one transport accident and one industrial accident, in 1991 and 2004 respectively. Incidence of hazard events in the country (1974-2006) shows that there has been a steady increase in the number of events. There could be two compound reasons for this: (i) the data recording mechanisms became more organized during recent years, and events are being more systemically recorded; and/ or (ii) there has been an (apparent) increase in the number of various natural and technological hazards in the country. The detailed hazard analysis is dealt with in detail below. Only two technological hazards have been reported during this period, hence the data is insufficient to interpret the trend over the period.

Natural Hazards

Natural hazards Occurrence of different hazards over the period 1974-2006 in the country shows that 62 per cent are hydrometeorological hazards: flood- and drought-related events. Interestingly, while analysing events vis-a-vis death data, it is observed that there is a decreasing trend in absolute number of deaths due to natural hazards. Over this period, flood has killed more people than any other hazard. The September 2002 flood alone affected 16,971 families, inundated 30,000 hectares of agricultural land, damaged 494 houses (126 were heavily damaged) and affected areas of Lezha, Shkodra (northern), the district of Berat, Skrapar, Permet, Tepelena, Gjirokastra, Saranda and Korga (southern), with reported damages of USD 17.5 million. In terms of victims, the 1989-1991 drought affected almost the entire nation (Kapllani 2006): as per EM-DAT, 3.2 million people were affected. Hydrometeorological disasters affected 3.32 million people and incurred an economic loss of USD 24.67 million. During the last 33 years, EM-DAT reports four earthquakes killing 36 people and affecting 2,790 people. There are other major earthquake events recorded in Albania in the past. The 15 April 1979 Skodra (Montenegro) earthquake alone killed 35 people, injured 383 and rendered 100,000 homeless. There is evidence of earthquakes in Albania starting from the third to second century B.C. In the nineteenth century alone, there are reported occurrences of 55 strong earthquakes of intensity VIII on the MSK (Medvedev-Sponheuer-Karnik) scale.1 or above. Landslides often occur as associated hazards of floods or earthquakes. During the period 2003-2006, there are 45 reported cases of massive landslides (Kapllani, 2006).

1 The MSK, or Medvedev-Sponheuer-Karnik, scale of seismic intensity is an old-fashioned means of ranking earthquakes on a scale of 1-12, ac- cording to the intensity experienced.

Extreme temperature and technological hazards have severe impacts in the country, which is indicated by a large number of deaths compared to number of events. Landslides and earthquakes are the next most severe hazardous events in the country. Based on the EM-DAT data, the country is more vulnerable to disasters due to hydrometeorological hazards.

Analysing vulnerability across time (1974-2006) shows that number of deaths reported has reduced drastically, while economic losses, due to both natural and technological hazards, have been increasing. The period 1999-2003 has reported the highest economic losses incurred in last 33 years of hazards recorded in Albania. The vulnerability indicators across time - number of events, deaths, victims (affected and deaths) and economic loss - are presented in the figure 4 (a, b and c).

The incidence of flood-related hazard is high in Albania (one event in every six years). Economic loss due to flood, drought and earthquake during the last 33 years is USD 2.3 billion. Converting this amount into an annual average, it comes to 68.67 million (2.49 per cent of GDP). About 10 per cent of the population is exposed to flood and earthquake.

According to the World Health Organization, Albania is facing increasing pollution levels caused by poisonous gases released from industries and transport. The current levels are 10 times above the set tolerance limits.

According to a scenario analysis carried out in 2003 (Kapllani 2006) estimating human casualties due to earthquake, the mortality rate is highest in Durres, followed by Vlora, Elbasan, Pogradec, Diber, Berat, Tepelena, Shkoder, Kukesh, Saranda, Himara, Lezhe, Tirana, Petrovac, and then the Leskovic Quark (Quark is a local word for region), for an earthquake scenario of a 475-year return period.2 From a structural point of view, it is estimated that the maximum percentage of building collapses will occur in Quark Diber, followed by Durres, Fier, Gjirokastra, Berat, Korga, Elbasan, Tirana, Shkoder, Kukes, Vlora and Lezha, for a scenario earthquake of 475 years. From the expected maximum flood potential for a 100-year return period, Gjirokastra, Tirana, Elbasan and Shkoder Quarks are in extreme flood risk zones. More than 30 per cent of the country is vulnerable to natural unstable slopes along road and rail networks. Road and rail network slopes of most parts of Tirana, Elbasan and Berat Quark are unstable for a scenario earthquake excitation of a 200-year return period. The Quarks Shkoder, Kukesh and Diber are particularly vulnerable to snow avalanche. From a forest-fire risk point of view, the Quarks that are under very high risk are Kukes, Tirana, Korga, Fier, Gjirokastra and Vlora. The Global Fire Monitoring Center reports that, between 1981 and 2000 in Albania, there were 667 fire events, affecting 21,456 hectares of land.


Forty percent of Albania's geographical area is under agriculture, contributing 23 per cent of the nation's GDE As the country is more susceptible to hydrometeorological hazards, the impact of such hazards on agriculture will have an adverse impact on the nation's GDE Higher incidence of flood- and drought-related hazards, and the historic earthquake events, all need to be given due emphasis while planning disaster preparedness and mitigation. The vulnerability of the nation is aggravated by factors like poor infrastructure and public services, uncontrolled land use, an insufficiently regulated building construction boom, poor watershed management, and a range of other environmental factors. This development paradigm needs to be examined and the development model shifted to support hazard risk management of the region. In 2003, GIS-based risk zone maps for earthquake, flood, landslide, forest fire, snowfall, avalanche and diarrhea were prepared for the country (Kapllani 2006). This data, in its GIS format, can be utilized with other variables like population density and land use to develop location-specific vulnerability assessments for various hazards. Some of the challenges faced by Albania are: setting up an integrated communication, early warning and notification system; improvement of response capacities at the local level; establishing, strengthening and supporting structures for planning, monitoring and operations; enhancing capacities of staff at all levels; and community training systems. The institutional structure for disaster management needs strengthening at the national level and regional level. In one of the surveys conducted as part of a UNDP study on local vulnerability and capacity assessment in Albania, two-thirds of the surveyed population showed a relatively clear understanding of the roles and mandates of local government, emergency services and civil society organizations in disaster management. However, a majority thought that these organizations were not active or were inexperienced (55.4 per cent). Seventy-one point five per cent said that they were "not pleased" with the performance of these services before, during and after disasters. Seventy-four point seven per cent were also dissatisfied with national-level organizations and services (UNDF 2004). The Seismological Institute of Albania had proposed to set up in 2003 a fully integrated digital seismograph system for the nation, with the ability to link to regional systems, and data-sharing facilities for stakeholders and regional organizations, as part of the earthquake monitoring in support of disaster preparedness in SEE region.