Remarks by Ambassador Donald Lu at U.S. Assistance to Flood Victims’ Event

Prime Minister Rama, Mr. Hamataj, Mr. Rapushi, ladies and gentlemen,

Almost exactly one year ago, the Prime Minister asked Albania’s international partners what we might do together to support the hundreds of victims of last year’s terrible floods.

I was not optimistic we could find any funds for this.  We searched through our military and civilian resources for possibilities.  Fortunately, our creative friends at USAID were able to design quickly this project to restore and improve greenhouses destroyed by the floods.  Our pledge was for up to $750,000 in technical and financial support.

Over the past year, we have worked with our Albanian partner organizations, like AAC-Lushnja to rebuild and improve hundreds of greenhouses.  It is a testament to resilient farmers like Mr. Hamataj that they have replanted their farms and rebuilt their lives.

While I have only been in Albania for a year, my Albanian friends tell me that this cycle of flooding happens regularly.  Minister Panariti told me on Monday that the government is now shifting responsibility and authority for preventing floods to the municipalities.  We fully support this initiative and call on the government to provide not only the authority, but the technical resources and money to municipalities to solve this problem.

Territorial and administrative reform was meant to improve service delivery at a local level.  Local communities should be given the funds they need to prevent flooding so they do not need to wait for the central government in Tirana to act.

This work to rebuild farms and greenhouses was only possible because of the support and action of local government and local NGOs.  We thank them for their quick response and hope that the central government in Tirana allows them to do even more.