Helping vulnerable communities get back on their feet after the earthquake

UNDP Albania

May 30, 2022
Helping vulnerable communities get back on their feet after the earthquake

Giselda designing her brochure on her UNDP's donated computer

Photo Credits: UNDP Albania

Fear. Despair. Uncertainty. I could go on to describe the way Giselda felt when the earthquake shook her little village in Shijak Municipality, one of the 2019 earthquake-affected municipalities in Albania. Their little apartment was heavily destroyed together with their  hope that things were getting a little better. She and her family had to move to a different temporary  place to live  since the earthquake made their apartment inhabitable. And in no time, she also lost her father. Currently, she  lives with her mother, who is still battling the post-effects of Covid and can no longer work.

The 2019 earthquake that hit Albania left behind destruction in the public and private sectors. Affected communities were left reeling from the loss of lives and livelihoods.  The vulnerable communities were disproportionally affected by the loss of economic assets such as livestock, workshops, and equipment-making them fall into “poverty traps”, from which they would be unable to emerge. To respond to this situation, UNDP embarked on a new intervention: “The Earthquake Social Protection Response” Project funded by the Governments of the United Kingdom, Finland, Norway through the SDG Acceleration Fund. One of the project pillars is to assist the  households affected by the earthquake through a combined approach of multiple services to meet their various needs. 


One day Giselda  was contacted by the Social Mediator engaged with the  project. A meeting was set up to discuss the circumstances of Giselda and her family and identify possible opportunities for assistance.

After the meeting, things seemed to get a little better for her: She enrolled in a programme for graphic designers and was provided with a computer equipped with the needed design programmes. For her, this was a dream come true.

“Thanks to the training and the computer, I could design leaflets, posters, banners, and other promotional materials for several clients that I found  online. I could not believe it when I made my first small profit out of my own hard work. I had long dreamed of this. I was happy because I could help provide for myself and my mother,- says Giselda.

But the support did not end there. Through the community grants financed by the  project, her mother was referred and received specialized support to address her emotional wellbeing. 


UNDP_Albania_Helping vulnerable communities get back on their feet after the earthquake

Giselda designing her brochure on her UNDP's donated computer

Photo Credits: UNDP Albania

The project also works  to enable vulnerable people like Giselda to have access to integrated, quality social services. Giselda is only one among many young people whose conditions and life prospects have taken a turn for the worst after the earthquake and the pandemic struck. 

Ahead of project interventions, a “Livelihood Support Scheme” was implemented to assess the needs of more than 200 vulnerable families affected by the earthquake and the pandemic.

25 families have so far been aided with several interventions that support their economic recoveries such as tools, professional devices, and equipment-all based on individual development plans to improve their income-generating activities. Although the project is in its early stages, those being assisted are seeing and feeling  the change.

“The project made it possible the purchase of the livestock I lost during the earthquake. This is helping me provide for my family of five”-says ” Agim, a head of a  household in Shijak.

Giselda, Agim, and other families are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Agenda 2030 and the SDGs have a moral principle “Leave No-one behind”. At least in Shijak, the goals on paper are being translated into tangible interventions with great impact on the lives of people like him and like her.

And Giselda has a happy story to share: She currently studies graphic design at a University in Durres. She is sure she will succeed and as she puts it “make her father proud”.