by Maki Miço
A 6.4 magnitude quake struck the north-western part of Albania on the 26th of November and killed 52 people, injured over 700 people and affected many others. Over 2000 people lost their homes (for many of them, their livelihood) as several buildings collapsed and others suffered severe structural damage. The government declared a state of emergency which lasted for thirty days.
Albania has suffered from poor governmental leadership (of all different political convictions) for decades. It is understandable then that the impact of an unforeseen natural disaster has left the nation and its people in chaos, vulnerable and hopeless. What a great opportunity for the kingdom of Christ to breakthrough! I will be walking you through those areas as I have reflected on the history of Albania and the most recent events from the earthquake.
You can never predict an earthquake but knowing that there is serious seismic activity in the area one should think that there should be at the very least, minimal logistical back up, good building regulations and basic emergency equipment in case something happens.
The well-meaning people of the emergency response services acted swiftly but were very limited with the logistical and emergency resources they had in hand. If it wasn’t for the help of the international rescue teams the whole process would have been very long and with many more fatalities.
Corruption, and as a result the violation of building code meant that although the buildings should have been earthquake proof, they were not, and people were misled, and mis sold by unscrupulous developers. People had invested their lifesavings in these properties and although many were aware of the issues, they gambled and wished nothing as bad as this would happen in their lifetime – as the phrase goes “this may happen elsewhere but not in Albania”!
In the past three decades Albania has gone through several humanitarian crises and it has been so great to see the positive and helpful response of the neighbouring countries. Over 600 international rescuers were involved in dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake and it was an encouragement to see their solidarity. The central government organised a special online giving fund as well as asking for humanitarian assistance and by early December they had raised around £60 million.
Although there is money available, there are still a big number of people who are sheltered in emergency army tents, gyms, sports’ halls, military bases and this is proving to be difficult with the cold winter. Some people have had to be sheltered in areas far from where they used to live, and this has had an impact on jobs and education. The most vulnerable here are those with a very low source of income, those who have lost their jobs, the elderly, the disabled and racially discriminated.
There is government promise of a certain amount of monetary help, but a good number of people are suspicious about the process and the outcome. The intention is to restore and rebuild and yet the people involved in decision making are still working out what this may look like and it’s not a quick fix solution. Again, the vulnerable are at risk here!
Because many people have experienced first-hand the consequences of greed, corruption and bureaucracy when it comes to building regs and procedures and the handling of the situation, there are vibes of mistrust and hopelessness.
The certainty of ever going back to their homes and being able to build their “normal” lives again seems distanced, as they are still dealing with the emotional shock caused by the earthquake and the short fallings of humans. It is very easy to jump to conclusions and blame as many as you can when you are in the dark place of hopelessness.
What’s bothering me more is the fact that you see this hopelessness creeping in the church and as much as it is easy for me to say as I live abroad, its not the right path for God’s people.
I have been chewing over Brueggemann’s saying about the prophetic tasks of the church that are “to tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion, grieve in a society that practices denial, and express hope in a society that lives in despair.” I want this for the church in Albania!
The churches that I visited in the affected areas are on the front line providing holistic support to the people affected and they are encouraged by the way Christian communities have responded from all over the world.
Providing food, meals and clothes and the much-needed moral and spiritual support are some of the more obvious tasks of the local pastors and believers.
The Albanian Baptist Union is very grateful for all the contributions given by WEBA from churches and from individuals. Between you you raised over £8000! This is being used by our partner churches in Albania, especially Good News in Lezha and Agape in Tirana who are working with people who lost their homes and are currently living in tents. They’re supporting families by giving them food and clothes, whilst also sharing the hope that comes from the Word of God with them. Some designated donations are also being used to help with the repair of people’s homes.
This of course all took place around the same time as 3100 WEBoxes for children arrived in Albania, as well gifts of Food Parcels for families. Although a devastating time for the people of Albania, God’s timing and your hearts for this special mission meant that we were in a position to bring some hope and a little joy for children in the midst of this tragedy.
As I have looked and asked around about the needs, I would love to see us continue to support the churches on the ground with these particular tools of compassion:
Feeding programme is £3 per day per person
Food parcels £20-£50 per parcel
Wheelchairs £120-200 per item
Helping widows or vulnerable families with making their houses liveable £500-£2000
Contributions to sending a lorry with aid – £1000- £4000
Rented Accommodation for up to 6 months for an affected family – around £220 per month
Converted containers for those who are still living in tents £2000-2500 per item.
If you haven’t given yet and you’d like to, or if you want to continue giving for the Albanian Earthquake Appeal, you can do so via a direct transfer to WEBA or via the Virgin Money link.
Thank you also for your continued prayers.