FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME
In March 1999, an escalation of violence in the Kosovo Province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Kosovo), led to a large-scale exodus of refugees into neighbouring countries, among which Albania was particularly favoured because of the generous open-door policy maintained by the Government of Albania and by the Albanian people themselves throughout the crisis. By early June, UNHCR reported that the total number of refugees in the country stood at around 440 000 of whom, approximately half were accommodated in tent camps and half were living with host families.
In view of concerns about the impact of the Kosovo crisis on the food security situation of the country, a joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food supply assessment Mission was fielded to Albania from 3-13 June. The Mission gave special attention to the impact of the large influx of refugees on the hosting population, including, food consumption patterns, health and nutrition status and access to food supplies. The Mission's findings are based on discussions with Government Ministries and Departments and local authorities, UN (UNHCR, UNICEF, UNDP, WHO and WFP) and bilateral agencies and NGOs based in the country and on field visits to selected areas, including household interviews. In the limited time available, field visits were made to 10 of the 12 prefectures, including all the major agricultural production areas, as well as Shkoder and Kukes in the north of the country which are those prefectures most affected by the refugee influx.
The Mission found that the impact of the crisis on agricultural production, food prices, the local economy and overall food security in Albania appears to have been small. Indeed, there may have been a marginal, although very temporary, positive impact on some hosting families who have been able to benefit from emergency food parcels and additional income earned from renting to refugees.
The Mission concluded that the precarious food security being experienced by many Albanian households is attributable mainly to the general economic and development difficulties that the country has experienced throughout the 1990s, rather than to the extraordinary circumstances created by the crisis.
It should be noted that the potentially enormous burden on the local population of providing asylum to nearly half a million refugees was alleviated by the fast and adequate response of the international agencies and NGOs in supplying food and other types of emergency assistance. Had this effort not taken place, the crisis could have had quite a severe impact on the already very poor Albanian population.
The Mission forecasts Albanian cereal production in 1999 at 456 000 tonnes, somewhat less than the average of the past few years, and covering only about 50 percent of the domestic requirement. The Mission identified that the two main factors which have affected cereal production this year have been excessive rainfall during the autumn planting period and a preference by farmers to grow more lucrative cash crops. Both of which have led to a reduction in the area planted to cereals. While the crisis appears to have had little effect on the overall outcome of the 1999 cereal harvest, disruption to spring planting in the northern areas bordering Kosovo has affected an estimated 10 000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the area.
The cereal import requirement for the Albanian population for the marketing year 1999/2000 (July/June) is estimated at 478 000 tonnes, comprising 373 000 tonnes of wheat, 81 000 tonnes of maize, and 17 000 tonnes of rice. While the requirement of wheat is just above the average of the past few years, the bulk of which has normally been met by commercial imports, that for maize for animal feed is significantly larger than normal. However, it is possible that increased availability of home-grown forage due to this year's above normal rainfall and also from land intended for cereals which was left fallow, could eventually partially offset the requirement for maize.
Against the requirement of wheat estimated by the Mission, food aid of 3 000 tonnes of wheat have already been pledged for families that are hosting refugees. The food needs of the refugees have been excluded when calculating the cereal balance. Their needs are being met through a separate international assistance programme.
With regard to vegetable production, because rain delayed spring planting, official data on areas planted was not complete at the time of the Mission. However, information gathered during field visits indicated that the final area would be about normal.
Since the start of its transition to a market economy in 1991, Albania has suffered a series of substantial shocks to its well being and development. The early transition period was disorderly, and resulted in dramatic economic shifts. In 1992, after just one year of transition, economic output had contracted to half of its 1989 level and inflation was in triple digits. After a period of improvement and macro-economic stabilization from 1993 to 1995, the country again plunged into deep economic crisis in 1997, when rioting triggered by the collapse of financial pyramid schemes intensified to near civil war, and the government lost control over large parts of the country. Inflation escalated over a period of a few months, and economic activities came to a virtual standstill. Per capita GDP was estimated at US$650 in 1997, making Albania the poorest country in Europe.
Although, following the election of a new government in mid-1997, and with the support of an IMF programme, the economy once again began to recover, conditions for the population remain difficult. Average annual per capita food consumption is estimated to be well below the European average and an estimated 30 percent of the rural population lives in extreme poverty. In some of the most isolated northern parts of the country the population is dependent on Government food aid assistance throughout the winter months to meet their essential food needs.
In March 1999, the country's recovering and still fragile economy had to bear the burden of yet another shock when escalating civil unrest in Kosovo, which borders the country on its north-eastern edge, led to a massive influx of refugees. At the peak of the crisis in early June 1999, an estimated 440 000 Kosovar refugees were reported to be in the country. Of the total an estimated 225 000 (51 percent), were being hosted by approximately 42 000 families, mainly in rural areas, and the remainder housed in refugee camps.
Albania's agriculture, which provides a livelihood for the majority of the population (about 60 percent of the estimated total population of 3.3 million) has likewise experienced dramatic changes since 1991. The early transition period saw positive agricultural growth and by 1995, agricultural GDP was 15 percent above 1989 levels. Since 1995, the early high growth rates have slowed but agriculture has remained the main contributor to GDP over the past years (about 55 percent on average), and has continued to increase both output and total factor productivity. Important progress has been made in terms of land reform and privatization of former collective farms and agro-processing industries.
However, despite the achievements of the past years, Albanian agriculture and rural life remains to a large extent at a subsistence level and consequently the country has been highly dependent on imported foods during the 1990s. Farm production is now carried out by approximately 470 000 very small family farms as opposed to 550 state farms and cooperatives before transition. Moreover, further fragmentation resulted from the fact that the process of redistribution took land use and land quality into consideration to ensure that all families received equal allocations of all grades of land. The resulting mosaic of small parcels means that not only are the farms and herd/flock sizes small, but the allotments may include plots too far from the homestead to be utilized efficiently.
The sector comprises four main sub-sectors, namely cereal, vegetable, fruit and livestock production. Most peasant holdings, which average about 1.1 ha in size, are involved in activities across all four of the sub-sectors at a near-subsistence level. Cash earning opportunities arrive through the sale of surpluses produced on the farms. In this regard, livestock and fruit and vegetable production are of most interest to the farmers as they are recognized as being the best income generators.
|Wheat||Maize||Total cereals||Potatoes||Tomatoes||Oilseed crops||Sugar beet||Tobacco|
|1989||ha||209 200||64 000||349 000||9 000||4 100||92 300||6 600||27 000|
|tonnes||613 000||307 000||1 033 350||97 000||59 000||20 420||262 000||19 000|
|1990||ha||203 000||62 000||321 000||12 000||3 150||88 000||6 000||24 000|
|tonnes||613 000||227 000||867 000||80 000||60 000||11 580||169 000||14 100|
|1991||ha||143 658||44 303||215 339||11 047||3 000||59 793||4 500||11 000|
|tonnes||297 340||128 779||446 152||85 966||54 000||10 243||58 000||7 000|
|1992||ha||103 273||62 736||191 375||9 470||4 000||57 990||3 599||12 846|
|tonnes||251 862||156 063||430 814||78 500||90 000||6 195||46 458||12 000|
|1993||ha||154 959||72 669||268 249||10 313||4 300||48 108||2 209||13 017|
|tonnes||464 498||175 751||685 726||101 500||100 000||6 376||26 825||13 000|
|1994||ha||169 726||74 767||280 700||10 923||5 535||46 597||2 085||6 423|
|tonnes||420 000||193 261||655 800||88 900||127 000||7 044||60 000||3 900|
|1995||ha||141 219||68 870||244 700||12 029||6 200||46 661||2 000||6 177|
|tonnes||405 342||215 566||662 500||133 900||150 000||9 281||67 000||5 700|
|1996||ha||124 721||65 654||221 600||12 398||5 600||45 777||2 100||6 727|
|tonnes||271 150||214 059||523 150||131 600||180 000||6 876||74 000||6 300|
|1997||ha||136 200||61 145||227 200||11 534||5 100||46 265||2 000||7 525|
|tonnes||388 391||194 818||616 200||126 700||150 000||8 292||50 900||7 900|
|1998||ha||140 910||56 599||237 600||11 398||5 200||47 000||2 000||7 064|
|tonnes||395 067||189 130||636 500||145 000||156 000||9 784||62 000||8 700|
Table 1 illustrates the production of some selected crops since 1989. After the initial disruption in the first two years of transition (1991 and 1992), cereal production has generally remained stable around 600 000 to 650 000 tonnes per annum. This is well below pre-transition levels, which were in the order of 900 000 to 1 million tonnes, meeting urban and rural requirements and allowing export opportunities. Previously, substantial crops of oilseeds, sugar beet and tobacco were produced for home consumption and export. Now, although tobacco is still an important cash crop, selected vegetable and fruit crops, such as tomatoes and melons, are favoured as the best cash earners suited to the prevailing small-scale agriculture. The recognition of higher returns from vegetable and fruit production has caused a rapid expansion of plastic-sheet greenhouses as well as an increased sowing of summer vegetables where irrigation services are guaranteed.
Prior to the transition, some 70 percent of the arable land was irrigated affording the opportunity to produce 2-3 crops of vegetable produce per year. Following the destruction of irrigation systems at transition, and during the civil unrest in 1997, and neglect of maintenance of irrigation and drainage infrastructure, irrigated land area has been reduced by some 50 percent and delivery frequencies disturbed, resulting in infrequent and unreliable irrigation practices. Rehabilitation projects funded by the World Bank and IFAD are underway to bring some 150 000 ha back to full-time irrigation. Other projects are in the pipeline.
Livestock production has also emerged as an important component of the decentralized agricultural sector, but is highly fragmented, with cow herd and sheep/goat flock sizes in the order of one or two cows and ten to twenty sheep. The systems used are forage based, incorporating alfalfa and rye-grasses with partial irrigation, rough grazing, hay and supplementary rations of home-grown cereals fed to pregnant and lactating stock. Forage areas have increased over the past ten years as the area of cereals, oilseeds and sugar beet has declined.
Table 2 shows the country's livestock inventory from 1992 to 1999. The increasing trend for all livestock is evident in the early nineties but numbers were reduced in 1997 during the civil unrest. While milking sheep and poultry numbers have been built up again in 1998, milking goat and pig numbers have continued to decrease.
|Milking Sheep||1 232||1 415||1 630||1 736||1 453||1 372||1 395|
|Milking Goats||857||948||1 100||1 150||895||840||764|
|Poultry||2 539||3 359||3 642||3 900||4 108||4 566||4 862|
The production estimates for the 1999 cereal crops presented below, have been calculated using Ministry of Agriculture data adjusted following crop observations by the Mission in June, prior to harvesting. The output of spring-sown crops has been forecast on the basis of the estimated area planted and locally prepared yield predictions taking into account climatic factors and input use.
With regard to the spring crops, late planting compounded the difficulty of accurately noting area sown. Returns from districts regarding maize, spring vegetables and forages were incomplete or not available. Disruption to spring planting as a direct result of the crisis is reported only in localized areas in the north of the country close to the border with Kosovo, where an estimated 10 000 IDPs are affected.
Rainfall in the main wheat growing area began on time in September/October in all districts. Having started normally, precipitation became excessive in October/November causing sowing to be delayed in all districts by 15-30 days through interference with cultivations, water-logging and loss of access.
Consequently, area sown to wheat was reduced by 25 percent overall, with most significant declines in Durres (-65 percent), Kruje, (-80 percent), Lac (-72 percent), Lezhe (-61 percent), Puke (-75 percent), and Shkoder (-71 percent). All districts listed above are in the north-west sector where rains were heaviest and most persistent. Long term deterioration of drainage in such areas exacerbated the problem, as did the desire of farmers to move out of wheat into more financially interesting vegetable crops. Unfavourable conditions tipped the balance of opinion in favour of diversifying or leaving land uncultivated for fallow-grazing.
The south and eastern districts were less affected by heavy rain and although serious area reductions are apparent, they are lower than in the north and west. In Berat and Diber, wheat area remained the same as in the previous year, and in Korce, actually increased. In the important wheat growing zones of Elbasan, Kavaje, Lushnje, and Vlore reductions from 10 percent to 26 percent were noted.
The Mission discovered that even where the reduction in areas had been considerable, seeds were readily available at sowing time. The majority of farmers in Albania usually use their own "carry-over" seeds for sowing wheat. Similarly, there were no problems associated with access to tractors or draft animal power at sowing time. Although the price of cultivation was high, it was at a similar level in 1998 at around US$51 per hectare for ploughing and US$25 per hectare for subsequent passes.
For the remainder of the growing season rainfall was either normal or above-normal supporting good cereal development. Unfortunately, the very high rates of seed sown, at 200 to 250 kg per hectare, failed to smother weed growth given the good growing conditions. Weed infestation is therefore much higher than usual in all districts except in specialist wheat zones, where herbicide use and/or better land preparation was noted. As a result, in most districts less advantage has been gained from better rainfall and higher temperatures prevalent during the season.
Irrespective of greater humidity and higher temperatures, no significant change in the pest and disease profile of the wheat crop was noted. Polyphagous grasshoppers were reported to have been ubiquitous in the early spring but were brought under control by MoA supported spraying campaigns. No other incidents or infestations occurred reflecting the efficacy of seed dressing. Total fertilizer use is lower than last year, except in Berat and Korce, where due to area reductions, actual use per hectare is noted to have remained the same. In most areas, reduction in the tax on fertilizer has encouraged its use.
Other autumn cereals noted by the mission were oats, barley and a little rye. Their pattern of production this year matches the wheat crop. An absence of credit was, however, noted as a constraint on the increased use of fertilizer and other inputs throughout the districts visited by the Mission.
Due to heavier-than-usual spring rains, maize planting was delayed. The crops observed by the Mission were rarely more than one month old. Sowing took place in most districts from mid-May onwards, rather than at the end of April. To date, no untoward effects have been noted on the growing crop.
Table 3 shows area and production estimates for all cereals by district prepared by the Mission. Wheat yields, and the yields of barley and oats, are estimated to be slightly higher than last year due to the absence of insect pests and diseases, favourable growing conditions after sowing and a prolonged rainy season compensating for the late start to the season. Maize yields are expected to be similar to last year.
in area (%)
in prod'n (%)
|Malesi e Madhe||0.66||1.95||1.29||0.44||2.00||0.88||-33||-32|
in area (%)
|Malesi e Madhe||0.56||2.20||1.23||0.20||3.00||0.60||-64||-51|
Table 3: cont.
in area (%)
in prod'n (%)
|Malesi e Madhe||0.01||1.00||0.01||-100||-100|
in area (%)
in prod'n (%)
|Malesi e Madhe||1.23||2.06||2.53||0.64||2.31||1.48||-48||-42|
The 1999 cereal harvest is forecast at 456 000 tonnes, of which 310 000 tonnes is wheat and 138 000 tonnes is maize. The rest is mostly oats with a small amount of barley. At this level, cereal production in 1999 would be 24 percent lower than last year's estimated output mostly reflecting the reduced area sown.
Heavy rains in the main producing districts have had mixed effects. However, the advantages are expected to have outweighed disadvantages.
The main winter vegetable crops of brassicas and spinach have been produced and consumed and will not feature in the 1999/2000 food budget. Delayed planting reduced area but no shortages were reported. Next year's winter production remains an unknown quantity but given the expressed interest in diversifying cropping, winter vegetable area is likely to continue to expand assuming a suitable rainfall pattern.
Due to the lateness of the spring vegetable season in 1999, because of escessive rainfall at the main planting time, Ministry of Agriculture area estimates for spring vegetables were still not complete at the time of the Mission. Table 4 indicates the areas planted which had been recorded at the time of the Mission, compared with the 1998 area and production data by district for vegetables and potatoes.
|000 ha||t/ha||000 t||000 ha||000 ha||t/ha||000 t||000 ha|
|Malesi e Madhe||0.43||17.66||7.50||0.13||-70||0.51||8.91||4.50||0.19||-62|
Table 4 shows that at the time of the Mission an area of some 20 000 hectares of total vegetables had been planted against last year's total of 30 000 hectares. However, the final area is expected to reach last year's levels by: late vegetable planting after the wheat harvest where irrigation is available; sowing of a second crop after tomatoes; and residual cropping of water melon on land with good water holding capacity.
Reduction of the potato area in Kukes is suspected, but due to the non-availability of returns, it is difficult to estimate. Information is also unavailable for Bulqize. The other neighbouring districts to Kukes show slightly reduced areas which may be due to late planting, which has affected also returns from Shkoder, M. Madhe, Puke, and Lac. By comparison, 7 other districts show an increase in potato area.
Increased planting of fruit trees and/or grapes was noted in all districts except Bulqize. New olive planting, although less substantial, was also noted in 20 districts. Of the fruits, only grapes show any increase in yield over the past seven years. The MoA encourages increased fertilizer, insecticides and fungicide use and this has resulted in a yield increase from 1.8 tonnes to 6.6 tonnes per hectare since 1992.
Due to land holding policies, the areas farmed are small. Opportunities to establish commercial scale ventures are limited to the wealthy. In general the rural population has little opportunity to move from multi-function near-subsistence systems to commercially oriented enterprises, due to the lack of capital. Presently, there are no credit schemes operating that will accommodate peasant landholders. The Mission noted this, with lack of wholesale marketing structures and small-scale agro-processing plants, to be a significant constraint facing the development of the new generation of agriculturists.
The fragmentation of state and collectively owned livestock production units created a plethora of small cow herds (1 to 2 head) and sheep flocks (10 to 20 head). Fortunately, the livestock distributed were suited to peasant management practices. Jersey and Jersey-type cattle, which predominate, were originally developed for the tethering conditions of small herds. The sheep flocks in the large stations were previously reared on rations incorporating alfalfa, hay, by-products and grazing with strategic perinatal concentrate inputs. Such feeding practices have been sustained using home grown produce, but on a much smaller scale.
The 1997 agricultural survey and subsequent follow-up by MoA staff suggests that breeding stock numbers have stabilized at a level that can be easily supported by the forage available. A five to ten percent increase in stock numbers was noted in the north -western districts where farmers have good markets for meat and milk. The prices of both commodities have been firm in these districts.
Animal body condition was noted as being good everywhere. Condition scores were higher than June 1998 due to the plentiful forage from the increased rainfall. Production has increased in proportion to the animal number and their physical state.
There were no significant outbreaks of livestock diseases noted and veterinary services have been sustained with veterinary products available on cash payment from commercial outlets in all districts.
Access to drugs and vaccines is therefore limited to those who can pay, except for the prophylactic treatment for the main zoonoses. Consequently animals will be entering the next breeding season in improved condition. Production in the marketing year 1999/2000 is likely to increase.
With the stabilized breeding herd/flock, stock improvement through rearing and selection of the best indigenous animals should be encouraged and support programmes derived to identify the best milk producing and meat producing strains.
Presently the poultry industry produces the bulk of the domestic egg requirement, but little of the poultry meat requirement. Poultry units have closed through lack of funds to modify and expand. Credit lines for rural poultry units coupled to small-scale agro-processing will be necessary to reverse the trend.
Since the start of the transition when major changes overcame the agricultural sector, Albania has had a structural deficit in major agricultural commodities, in particular, cereals, oilseeds and sugar. The level of self-sufficiency, however, varies across the population. While the rural areas are largely self-sufficient, the urban population is far more dependent upon imported food supplies. Since income is still relatively low, the proportion of income spent on food is generally quite high.
The balance of the country's cereal and other major food needs is met by private sector imports. Albania has implemented a liberal commercial policy both domestically and with respect to foreign trade. The Government's monopoly in foreign trade has been eliminated, the control of agricultural prices has been lifted and prices have been fully liberalized (the last product to be liberalized was bread in July 1996).
Wheat and wheat flour are the main food commodities imported, and in recent years, imports have ranged between about 200 000 tonnes to 400 000 tonnes per year (on a July/June basis), of which food aid has normally contributed only a small percentage. The Government is confident of the private sector's capacity to bring into the country the quantities necessary to ensure continuity in wheat supplies.
With regard to the current situation, the Kosovo crisis appears to have had little impact on the overall food supply situation, reflecting the general efficacy of the international assistance programmes for the refugees. Retail prices for basic foods throughout the country, including those districts with the highest concentration of refugees, show a considerable degree of stability.
The estimated cereal balance for the Albanian population for 1999/2000 prepared by the Mission is shown in Table 5, and is based on the following assumptions:
|Import Requirements 2/||373||17||81||10||481|
Table 5 shows that the cereal import requirement for the marketing year 1999/2000 (July/June) is estimated at 481 000 tonnes, comprising 373 000 tonnes of wheat, 81 000 tonnes of maize, 17 000 tonnes of rice, and 10 000 tonnes of other cereals. While the requirement of wheat is just above the average of the past few years, the bulk of which has normally been met by commercial imports, that for maize for animal feed is significantly larger than normal. However, it is possible that increased availability of home-grown forage due to this year's above normal rainfall and also from land intended for cereals which was left fallow, could eventually partially offset the requirement for maize. Against the wheat import requirement of 373 000 tonnes, a small amount of food aid has already been pledged for families that are hosting refugees. As in the previous year, the bulk of the cereal import requirement is expected to be met through commercial imports.
For most Albanian households, food security has improved considerably since the early 1990s. In great contrast to only a few years ago, a greater variety of foods are now available throughout the country at relatively stable and uniform prices.
The Mission found that the impact of the Kosovo crisis on overall food security in Albania appears to have been small. At the time of the Mission, there did not appear to be physical shortages of basic food staples, and seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and dairy products, were available in all regions. Indeed, there may have been a marginal, although very temporary, positive impact on some hosting families who have been able to benefit from emergency food parcels and additional income earned from renting to refugees.
The Mission concluded that the precarious food security being experienced by many Albanian households is attributable mainly to the general economic and development difficulties that the country has experienced throughout the 1990s, rather than to the extraordinary circumstances created by the crisis. However, although the refugee-crisis has not caused any emergency food aid needs for the resident population, the Mission suggests to look into the appropriateness of targeted developmental food aid for the poorest rural areas of Albania.
It should be noted that the potentially enormous burden on the local population of providing asylum to nearly half a million refugees was alleviated by the response of the international agencies and NGOs in supplying food and other types of emergency assistance. Had this effort not taken place, the crisis could have had quite a severe impact on the already very poor Albanian population.
Nonetheless, food security continues to be a problem for poor households, and particularly so for the poorest households in the north and northeast mountainous regions. Among these households, food security is more a problem of inadequate access to food due to extremely low incomes, rather than a problem of food shortages or inadequate food supply. For all Albanians, average monthly income is extremely low, thus limiting their food purchasing power. Many still remain unemployed after the closing of major factories and industries in 1990; unemployment is estimated at 15-20 percent, only a fraction of whom receive unemployment benefits. In the rural areas, nearly one-third of the population lives in deep poverty, and an estimated one-quarter lives on farms too small to provide even modest levels of subsistence from farming alone. Overall, 15-20 percent of Albanian families depend on the social assistance programme (Ndhime Ekonomeke), which provides cash payments to families whose income is insufficient to meet minimum subsistence requirements. In the north and northeast, more than 30 percent of families depend on these benefits, which range from US$25-40 per month, depending on family size.
In general, a high proportion of household income is spent on basic food items; in the poorest households, 75 percent or more of income is spent on food . Many of the foods needed for a varied and healthful diet, while available in the markets, are beyond the reach of these families. This is true also in the urban areas, where the greatest variety of foods can be found; the prices of many foods make them prohibitive to many urban families. Some studies indicate that the poor spend a very large part of their monthly food expenditure on bread alone; they typically consume about half of the average non-poor household's weekly consumption of meat, milk, yogurt, vegetables and potatoes. According to FAO Food Balance Sheet data, food available in Albania in 1997 (recently released figures) was 2,961 Kcals per person daily, half of which was provided by wheat, and only a very small proportion of which is provided by meat and other animal products.
The typical Albanian diet is based heavily on wheat, in the form of bread; bread consumption is the highest in the European region. Potatoes, white beans, cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes and onions are commonly consumed; green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits rarely so. A semi-soft, heavily salted cheese produced locally is frequently consumed with bread; yogurt is also eaten, sometimes as a sauce served with meat, and milk is generally consumed by only the youngest children. Fish is rarely eaten. Much of the food is fried, usually in sunflower oil, occasionally in olive oil. As a result of the sporadic or seasonal availability of various food items, as well as high prices (relative to income), the diet tends to be monotonous, with only a few items being consumed exclusively in any given period of time. While breast feeding of newborns is common, it is of short duration and supplementary foods are given early. Children 0-6 months are commonly given yogurt and/or milk; the most frequent foods for children 6-12 months are milk cream, yogurt, carbohydrates, eggs and vegetables, with a greater frequency of yogurt in the villages and vegetables and potatoes in the towns. The principle method of cooking in the villages and rural areas is on wood burning stoves; in some areas this resource is being depleted.
Although there is little systematically collected national nutrition data for Albania, overall, there is evidence that the prevalence of malnutrition has diminished since the early 1990s. However, a number of health and nutritional problems still exist, and there is wide regional variation in health and nutritional status. Maternal mortality and infant mortality rates, which have historically been very high in Albania, are relatively much higher in the mountainous rural areas. In general, the risk of malnutrition is higher among children living in mountainous and in sub-urban areas than for those living in urban-central and rural-plain areas. The risk of malnutrition also appears to be higher among females than among males of the same age and socio-economic status. Recent survey data show that child malnutrition is very high in the remote areas in the north and northeast mountain regions, and may be increasing.
In a 1997 survey conducted among children 0-36 months in 8 selected high risk districts in Northern and Central Albania, 17 percent were underweight, 23 percent were stunted, and 7 percent were wasted. In these areas, malnutrition is a reflection of the harsh living conditions, low household income, the underdevelopment of basic infrastructures (many of these homes lack water and sanitation services), and the decrease in basic health service coverage. Thousands of children are admitted to hospital annually for diarrhoel diseases, respiratory infections and other infectious diseases, one-quarter of which are considered to be nutrition-related. Morbidity from parasitic diseases is very common among school children, where poor or totally lacking sanitary facilities and the absence of good personal hygiene increase the risk of transmission. Iodine deficiency is considered to be a serious problem among all age groups in most districts, and particularly so in the mountainous regions in south-east. A recent rapid assessment indicates high prevalences of anaemia among children under the age of 5 and women of 25-29 years of age. No clinical measurements of vitamin B and D deficiencies have been made, but observations of children, coupled with information on their diet, indicate that they are common.
This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required.
Ms. J. Cheng-Hopkins
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