ALBANIA: Red Cross Albania uses RHUs to rebuild lives

In an effort to restore communities in the aftermath of the devastating 2019 Albanian earthquake, the Albanian Red Cross constructs 52 Better Shelters for families to live in while permanent housing is restored.

On 26 November 2019, Northwestern Albania was struck by a sizeable earthquake that registered as 6.4 on the Richter scale. The earthquake lasted for 50 seconds and was felt all the way to Belgrade, 370 kilometres from the epicentre. 51 people were killed and roughly 3000 were injured, making the earthquake the world’s deadliest in 2019. Furthermore, it is estimated that 14 000 people became homeless in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake as 11 490 homes were damaged or destroyed. Additionally, 83 000 homes will need to be repaired.

As the consequences of the earthquake propelled thousands of Albanians into crisis, local organisations have begun a concentrated effort to implement relief operations. One such organisation is the Albanian Red Cross branch, which has focused on reconstructing communities by offering them temporary shelter. As a measure to achieve that goal, Red Cross Albania implements 52 Better Shelters to be used as temporary shelters for families to live in while the government is restoring permanent housing.

“We think that the Better Shelter units are the best possible temporary accommodation that we can provide to our communities”, says Saidi Bushaj, member of the Albanian Red Cross project team.

“The shelters will be implemented in all municipalities affected by earthquake: Durres, Tirana, Krujë, Laç, Shijak. After they have served their purpose, the Better Shelters will be repurposed as additional accommodations or as storage units for the local population”, he adds.

It has however been quite challenging to restore the local communities during the year of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to spread within Europe.   

“Because of restrictions due to COVID, we have to date unfortunately only been able to set up four units (three in Tirana and one in Durrës). We are currently in the process of setting up six more until end of December 2020” continues Bushaj. “The Albanian government had initially planned to have finished the reconstruction process in late 2021, but due to the possibility of future restrictions we think it might be realistic to plan for the process to take at least one year longer. If that scenario does happen, families will be able to live in the Better Shelters until their houses have been rebuilt.”

“We are very happy that in these cold days you provide us such a good and warm accommodation, even though we hope that they (the Albanian government, editor’s note) will keep their promises to build our houses” says an anonymous user.

Better Shelter wants to thank the Albanian Red Cross for their hard work during a very challenging year. Restoring communities that have been through natural disasters of the scale of the Albania earthquake is no small task, and we are very happy to have had such a positive collaboration. Most importantly though, we are proud to see that Better Shelters are giving affected families safe and dignified shelter that can help speed up the recovery process.