Aftermath of the November 26, 2019 earthquake. Photos: UNDP Albania

 

In November 2019, Albania suffered a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which killed 51 people and injured hundreds more. UNDP is working with local businesses owners as they get back on their feet. A pledging conference will be held in Brussels on 17 February.

“On the morning of the 26th of November, when I went to my lamp store, I was shocked. Hundreds of lamps were broken into what looked like millions of pieces. Four thousand dollars of losses. My biggest challenge was how to finance business recovery but also simultaneously cope with the damage of my own home. I have employed three people in this business and although the revenue is 80 percent less, compared to the period before the earthquake, I still need to keep them in their jobs,” says owner Mariglen Lila.

“My family and I are lucky to be alive after such a disaster. Our house was close to collapsing. Our family business —a grocery store— is on the first floor of the building. When I went in, I saw merchandise and broken bottles lying all over the place. Almost 70 percent of my inventories were on the floor. Ceiling tiles had fallen along with items and were scattered everywhere. The power went out, so most of the refrigerated items got spoiled quickly and I had to throw them away. The economic damage was around US$3,000,” says Agim.

"We lost everything."

“We had a little shop where we make doughnuts and pie. They are our beloved treats on the run. They’re a quick breakfast, a workplace snack, and a family favourite. My clients are mostly children and grownups from the neighbourhood who usually buy them on their way to school or work. I run this shop together with my wife. We suspended our activity because the walls of the shop collapsed and destroyed the cooking stoves and other equipment. We lost everything. This his means no income and consequently very little food on the table for our five children,” says owner Ali.

“After the earthquake, many businesses were unable to continue their normal operations, impacting severely the flow of services affecting livelihoods and communities, thus causing direct business losses but also indirect losses and economic ripple effects,” details Xheni, a student at Tirana Business University.

Businesses serve as the backbone of Albania’s economic strength. Microbusinesses, which are companies with up to four employees, account for more than 94 percent of all companies in Albania, and they employ around 38 percent of all private sector workers.

UNDP's In Motion

While the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) is being finalized, initial results indicate significant market disruption and loss of livelihoods and employment opportunities in the affected areas, negatively impacting incomes and creating even greater challenges for households and communities as they attempt to recover from disasters.

Taking into account the findings from needs assessments conducted in the aftermath of the disaster feeding the PDNA, UNDP kicked off a pilot intervention making use of  UNDP’s “In Motion”, an enterprise recovery programme that has been successfully implemented in other countries.

 

UNDP Albania partnered with Tirana Business University, who sent teams of students to the hardest-hit areas in Durres to assess the situation, to get an accurate picture of the level of disruption in the local businesses to make an informed decision on UNDP’s support. Students carried out the assessment by interviewing small and microenterprise owners to understand the situation of their businesses after the earthquake.

UNDP’s “In Motion” aims to stabilize the economic conditions of small businesses, help them to recover business infrastructure, and reestablish their economic activities in the market. In Motion supports small businesses with situational diagnosis, training in soft skills and business skills, improvement of business image, and provision of equipment.

The findings indicated infrastructure damage, total or partial loss of merchandise, sales breakdown, loss of customer base because people have abandoned their homes, and loss of hope to restart.

Rebuilding work begins

On January 27, UNDP brought together owners of the most affected microenterprises to present the benefits of its In Motion programme. Twenty of them signed letters of commitment, and the work has already started to get them up and running again.

“UNDP is recognized worldwide as a leader in assisting countries in crisis response as well as in reconstruction and recovery efforts as a transition to resuming long-term development. On the ground all over the country, UNDP has the expertise, the technical resources, and is well-positioned to offer emergency employment and enterprise recovery support to both men and women,” says UNDP Resident Representative in Albania Limya Eltayeb.

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