Albania was contaminated with landmines and cluster munitions as a spill-over contamination from the Kosovo* crisis in 1999. The contaminated areas covered 120 kilometers along the Albanian border from Montenegro to Macedonia (an overall of 15,250,000 square meters). Since 1999, there have been 210 mine/UXO accidents, in which 238 persons were injured and 34 killed. By the end of 2009, all areas in northeastern Albania along the border area were cleared, surveyed or released. On 1 December 2009, at the Cartagena Summit in Columbia, Albania officially declared “Mine Free Status” and successfully completed the Article 5 obligations of Ottawa Convention.
Stores of ammunition in former military depots, left over from Albania’s former communist regime, still pose a serious safety threat. According to AMMCO database, there have been 1,006 abandoned explosive ordnance casualties (152 killed and 854 injured) recorded all over Albania during the period from 1997 until to date. The last accident registered is on 05 April 2019 in the village of Fushe Bulqize, Diber region. As a result of national and international efforts in undertaking clearance activities, the current number of dangerous UXO hotspots as of September 2019 was reduced to 2 from the initially 19 identified in 2011.
What we do
ITF started its hotspots clearance program in Albania back in 2009, and re-started its program in 2014 partnership with NGO Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). NPA started its activities in Albania on 15 August 2014, establishing and training two EOD clearance teams. At the start of the project, Albanian government allocated 7 hotspots for clearance by NPA: Gjeroven (Berat), Palikesht (Berat), Mbreshtan (Berat), Kordoc (Gjirokaster), Picar (Gjirokaster), Sinanaj (Tepelene) and Jube Sukth (Durres). As of July 2018, NPA has successfully cleared all hotspots in Berat and Gjirokaster municipalities, concluded technical survey of Sinanaj hotspot in Tepelene municipality and started clearance on Jube Sukth hotspot in Durres municipality.
After the completion of the Jube Sukth Phase 1 clearance, the two NPA teams were planned to move to the Sinanaj hotspot. 166,500 square meters of area need to be cleared and released in Sinanaj with two NPA clearance teams. From the beginning of project activities on Sinanaj hotspot until September 2019, the NPA teams cleared 109.559 square meters of land, removing 3,680 items of UXO and 14,498 small arms ammunition (SAA).
Clearance of the Phase 2 of the Jube Sukth site TD-HS-017 was planned to start with two Albanian Armed Forces (AAF) teams under the supervision of NPA. The teams were previously trained by NPA. 17 September was the first operational day for the two AAF teams on the Jube Sukth site. First part of the site was previously cleared by NPA, while the remaining area for clearance for the AAF teams is 420,000 square meters. The teams are deployed under the supervision of NPA Site supervisor and consist of two team leaders, 15 searchers and two medics.
ITF also implements the project Capacity Support to Albanian Mine & Munitions Coordination Office (AMMCO). The project intends to support the activities of UXO hotspots clearance in the country’s territory and ammunition disposal, through provision of coordination, monitoring and quality management of clearance activities conducted by the EOD Albanian Armed Forces and NPA clearance operator. The main goal of the project is “to contribute to making Albania safe from UXO/ERW and to the fulfillment of the Albanian Government commitment to eliminate the ammunition risk by 2020”. The project will be finished in December 2020.
ITF supported many victim assistance and risk education projects/activities in the past. Between 2016 and 2017 the following activities were implemented:
- The medical/rehabilitation materials and equipment were delivered to Kukes hospital in May 2017.
- In November 2016, ITF signed the agreement with ALB-AID for the implementation of the project “Support social-economic reintegration of UXO/ERW survivors of Albania through Vocational Training Initiative (VTLEPI)”. The project was finished on 01 December 2017.
- In July 2017, two patients from Albania came on a rehabilitation at University Rehabilitation Institute Republic of Slovenia (URI Soča).