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Earthquake in Albania. Profka (SHIS-AVSI): “We will get back on our feet with the strength of our families and children”

The death toll and the number of wounded by the earthquake of 26 November is tragically increasing: 41 died and approximately 900 were injured. On-site relief services are being supplied, inter alia, by SHIS a local ONG partner of Italian NGO AVSI. SHIS and AVSI focus their efforts on helping traumatized children in makeshift camps

“Our first goal is to help children left homeless – temporarily housed in makeshift tent camps currently being set up in the most affected towns and villages – to recover from the trauma and overcome this difficult moment.”

Roberta Profka is the Director of Albanian NGO SHIS – International Association for Solidarity –, a local partner of AVSI – Association of Volunteers in International Service. Contacted by phone, while working with her team in Durres, Tirana and Thumana to organise support for children and their families alongside local institutions, she spoke of these dramatic hours after the earthquake of November 26. The expertise acquired in this field is the result of twenty-year cooperation with AVSI, resulting in the Albanian and Italian NGOs promoting numerous educational and after-school projects and activities, such as those in the “Piccolo Principe” day centre on the outskirts of Tirana. Furthermore, through a distance assistance programme, AVSI supports some 700 children and their families in the country’s nine poorest regions.

“The situation is growing increasingly difficult, the tremors continue and heavy rainfalls only made things worse. The death toll rose to 42 with 900 wounded – said the Director -. Local residents are being assisted with food and clothing, thanks to help from many countries. We are actively supporting the children with the necessary psychological counselling. We don’t have the exact figures because some families have left the first shelter camp to move in with their relatives. Our intervention includes animation, games, study and distribution of hot meals, blankets, healthcare packs. Most of all, we are planning a long-term commitment, because while the problematic aspects are evident now, the traumatic repercussions on these children will only emerge at a later stage. We need to be prepared.

Many buildings collapsed as a result of the earthquake, in Durres, Tirana, Thumana and in many other small villages. Schools have been damaged with a high risk of children losing their schooling. This is something we must also think about. In cooperation with institutions, we set up a team of engineers and technicians to assess the condition of each school.

Albania will get back on its feet with the strength of its families and children.

We will do whatever it takes to be by their side,” concluded Profka, “and we are therefore asking for everyone’s help.”

Caritas Albania. In the meantime, Caritas Albania and its emergency teams are monitoring the situation in other centres, such as Laç, a hamlet of Kurbin, on the road that connects Tirana to Shkodër, reporting severe cases. According to Caritas, many buildings are unfit for habitation and some 2000 people are left in the cold. There are no blankets, mattresses or tents. Kurbin city authorities are doing their utmost, with the municipal staff working full time. Full-scale emergency also in the small village of Shijak (Durres Governorate). Even here many houses collapsed or are unsafe, with evacuated families housed in local schools. Inspections by Caritas have also been carried out in Pezës, Vaqarrit and Ndroqit. Caritas Albania is distributing updated lists of families, businesses and hotels offering rooms and accommodation for evacuees. Several parishes took action in the last few hours, despite the damage incurred, to meet the needs of the population. Problems also exist with regard to relief. According to local sources, dozens of people have surrounded the cars of volunteers who continue delivering aids near the stadium in Durres today, with people pressing through the crowd. Dozens of men and women have crowded outside a school gate where food and basic necessities have been arriving since yesterday. The situation is extremely difficult. This morning Caritas Albania, with the support of Caritas Italy, met with the clergy of the diocese of Durres-Tirana, with Msgr. George Anthony Frendo, president of the Albanian bishops. The purpose of the meeting was to put in place every initiative designed to meet the needs of the local population.

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