Albania starts to rebuild after the Kosovar crisis
Albania was one of the integral hosts to the Kosovar refugees as they fled ethnic cleansing in their homeland. In total, nearly 480,000 ethnic Albanians fled to the neighbouring country, placing an enormous strain on the already weak infrastructure within the country.
Now the bulk of the refugees have returned to Kosovo. Official estimates are flawed but expectations are that only about 12,000 refugees remain. An intensive count is underway to determine the exact remaining numbers.
The problem facing Albania now is getting the country rehabilitated from the effects of the refugees as well as ensuring remaining refugees are cared for properly. Land where the refugee camps once stood has to be converted back either to the original condition or left in some manner that will benefit the local population. There has to be some winterisation of local facilities to ensure the refugee population is warm during the coming winter.
This is not something that is financially feasible for the Albanian government to undertake alone. The country is one of the poorest in the region and the pressure of recent months has had its effect throughout the economy.
The local population watched while hundreds of thousands of people flooded their country, followed by the world press and hundreds of refugees. Then, everybody seemed to follow the refugees out of the country and the boom and bust economy ran full circle in just a few months.
For many Albanians, the concern is that the world has forgotten their country.
Despite this, there are many NGOs who have undertaken efforts to remain in Albania and assist in the necessary work that has to be done there.
Just prior to the emergency, MSF had undertaken to rebuild an emergency wing and Intensive Care Unit at a hospital in Fier. That project continued, granted at a slower pace, during the refugee crisis and is nearing completion.
MSF is also there with two exploratory missions, just underway, assessing the water-sanitation needs in villages throughout the country as well as a medical assessment of the northern provinces. Through these assessments, MSF will be better able to determine the next course of action for the organisation in Albania.
But there are no shortages of issues in the country. As a bordering country to Kosovo, it was one of the areas that suffered sharply from the fallout in the war, both from Serb and NATO forces. In the northern provice of Bajram Curri, there is a considerable mine problem as well as Unexploded Ordinances (UXO) on the border. The Serbs mined the area extensively. NATO often left UXOs and cluster bombs throughout the area.
Mine injuries have been a constant worry for the country and shall likely remain an issue for years to come.
The country is beset with problems of their own as well. Albanian gangster activity is high and the police are struggling to make headway. From recent reports, the police are often too poorly equipped to make efficient headway in the fight.
This site shall be adding substantial material on Albania in the coming week, with specific information regarding the problems the country faces with organised crime, mine awareness and remaining refugees. In addition, specific information regarding the organised redevelopment of the country shall be here to give a better sense of perspective of what happens to a country when, after being the centre of attention, the world turns its sight to another part of the world.