Bringing Hope to Albanians During a Sombre Winter


The future of Albania is hanging by a thread. Astronomical cost of living, widespread corruption, a massive earthquake and the aftermath of a global pandemic have driven people out of the country in droves. And, with winter coming, mass emigration is only looking to increase as citizens struggle to find work and enough food to feed their families.

Since the fall of communism in 1991, nearly 40% of Albania’s population has left the country, heading for countries like Greece, Italy, Germany, the Nordic countries, the UK and the US. Many Albanian cities, towns and villages that used to be bustling with stable economies are now becoming ghost towns. Kukësi in the north of Albania has seen more than 53% of its citizens leave. The cities of Shkodra, Fieri, Durrësi and Vlorë have each lost more than 15% of their population in the past ten years. Villages, in particular, have seen massive numbers leave, from Narta in the south to Zogaj in the north.

Photo: Empty and rundown houses and streets line the cities of Albania. Islamic Relief is delivering urgent aid and essential items to those in need.

The Albanian government provides little support

Throughout the years, the government has offered very little support for people who were struggling. More and more of Albania’s population are below the poverty line, as costs and inflation, particularly with respect to food, electricity, oil and gas, continue to rise. Even as hundreds of people were injured, killed and left homeless from a mass earthquake in 2019, corruption and nepotism within the country have left limited domestic aid for the Albanian population during times of crisis.

Likewise, property rights in Albania are also extremely precarious and are a major cause of economic and social strife in the country. Through legal loopholes or political connections, the state can claim any land back or destroy any investment in the land without much notice. People are having to pay bribes to keep their property. Organised crime, corruption and loan sharking have flourished. And European companies are not investing in Albania because of these issues surrounding land.

With the lack of local and international government investment to invest in alternative industries, many people are without jobs and the younger generation leaving as they see no future here. Albanians have lost hope that things will get better any time soon. Many educated and ambitious Albanians are looking for a better life elsewhere, while those too poor to move are left to bear the brunt of Albania’s spiralling economy and a sombre winter.

Winter has pushed the world’s most vulnerable people to the brink of survival

This winter, many of the world’s most vulnerable people will be pushed to the edge of survival. In our mission to alleviate suffering from the poor and needy, Islamic Relief Australia is providing over 72,000 winter kits, packed with essential survival items, and supporting over 455,000 people this winter season. With our Winter Appeal, we aim to provide a lifeline for thousands of families in 17 countries, including Albania, where mother-of-3 Valbona lives with her parents.

Photo: Islamic Relief is providing families like Valbona’s with enough food, warm clothes, blankets and essentials to last the harsh winter in Albania.

“We face challenges with warmth, food, and shelter,” says 33-year-old Valbona, who has been struggling to provide for her children. “Every morning I wake up to prepare food, and sometimes I do not eat myself because there is not enough food for all of us. There is a social centre where the children can sometimes get lunch.

“We had to move into my parent’s home as I can’t afford to live in a rented house. Now, we share 2 small rooms between 6 family members. As my children grow, they need stationery, clothes, and food which I can’t provide as I don’t have a job.

“My children and I do not receive any orphan-related support from the state, nor do we get any social assistance for being unemployed. The only consistent income we get is my mother’s 90 Euro disability assistance. My mother also sells some crafts, handmade products like socks, on the street, despite her health not being good.”

“I was scared about this winter, but now our home can be warm”

Last winter, Valbona was desperately worried for her family – until Islamic Relief stepped in.

“The only help my family has received is from Islamic Relief. Before we got the wood for heating, I was scared about this winter, but now our home can be warm. Feeling warmth during the long, dark winter is a joy.

“My family and I are very happy. We have been in need, and you have supported us. I don’t have enough words to express what the food and wood distribution means to us. I don’t have to worry for a month, and I can save money for medicines for my children.

“We would like to express our deep gratitude to all the donors, and pray for your health, happiness, and success in everything. May your kindness and generosity return to you a hundredfold, may your strength and energy grow, and may your hopes become a reality.”

Help us save lives from the harsh winter cold

We are providing winter survival essentials to vulnerable people in need. Please help people like Valbona and her family survive this season: give generously to our Winter Appeal.