Tirana 4 June 1999
I woke up with Procal Harum, this one hit they had somewhere in the end of the sixties, it comes from different open windows, so the local radio must be
broadcasting it. I think they have a good music taste there, it's basically the
sixties which I hear in the morning, sometimes a bit strange with those
choppers in the air. It gives the feeling I am in the wrong war.
This morning we had a long discussion about why this humanitarian aid
delivery in this country is such a chaos. Almost nothing seems to work the
way it's supposed to. Still you can't blame it on special organisations or
NGO's it is just the whole situation in itself. The small NGO's are a part of the mess and the big ones too. World Food Programme, for example has been trying for two months now to get an overview of what is being
distributed where, they have a kind of overview of what comes into the
country, at least they do if the documents at the costums are filled in properly, but
from there they can't trace most of it down. They have been begging organisations all this time now to be so kind to fill in some small form explaining where they have brought or stocked their aid. But how does
an organisation which is arriving in Durres, then driving to say Kukes (since
that is the place to be), unloading their truck and directly returning (after
taking some pictures of course), know that he or she has to fill in a form
for WFP. Nobody tells them. So the bottleneck at the port could be used to
get that information, but it isn't, of course.
Next problem is that lots of organisations supply food, but don't have a
distribution network. They can store their supplies in warehouses, but that's it,
they can't get it away from there, since they haven't got a distribution network.
A few weeks ago they, the big ones, were working on a distribution scheme, with
WFP as end-responsible organisation, but different bigger NGO's in charge of food distribution in all the prefects. A nice idea, it means when you want to deliver something somewhere, or you have delivered something somewhere, you should go to the organisation in charge of that prefect and tell them that
you have delivered something or you are willing to deliver. Problem is that
you can't get the information anywhere which those organisations are and
were you can find them. So even those organisations who are willing to
cooperate in the system have a hard time to do so. And this total lack of
coordination is what makes it so hard in this country.
Plus of course that the situation in this country is changing with the day,
things which were rather needed today are too much tomorrow, since nobody
has an overview of what is coming besides the deliveries from WFP, and
even they are often surprised. So if you have been here two weeks ago to find
out what is needed and you are now delivering it, it might be
already there, or triple, or the camp may even be gone, or taken over by
another organisation, which doesn't want you to deliver anything there. This
last thing is very common, it is making our preparation work hard as well, one moment you've found out who is doing the management of a certain camp, but by the time you finally have somebody of that organisation on the telephone (and that takes ages) the management is taken over by somebody
else and the telephone is answered by an old Albanian lady, who is back in
to her house, or has her telephone back, since the organisation has moved
out, but that she can't tell you that, at least not in English.
In the late afternoon I joined a preparation meeting for a roundtable,
organised by the Soros foundation, about "the danger of Drugs", which will
take place in the end of the month. I was invited, since they heard that I
was in Croatia and Bosnia and that we had there some problems with
frontline soldiers, who were heavily on drugs. Almost all the fighters were
on some kind of drug, either alcohol or some chemical ones. I mean you need to
have the energy to fight from somewhere. The meeting took almost two hours,
and I couldn't really follow it, it was all in Albanian, and the guy who
translated for me only translated a sentence every five minutes, which is not
really helpful when you see fifteen people sitting around a table, at
least five of which are talking or rather shouting to each other, and only the one who
shouted the hardest can finish her or his sentence it seems. The
others try directly afterwards if they are now able to get their sentence
It is not really what I had imagined and when I finally could say something I
could introduce myself with five sentences, and that is all, I was obviously not
loud enough, since the discussion rolled on. The guy translated that they
are discussing what I have said. The guy from the ministry for justice said
that he thinks it is not so important that a special topic of the
roundtable would be about "drug and war, especially drugs and soldiers".
First there is no war in this country and secondly most of the soldiers are foreign
anyway, so you can't do anything against them anyway.
During the meetig I find out that the laws against drugs are rather strange
and vague. You are not allowed to sell it, at least not as an Albanian in
Albania, but it is unclear whether that also holds for foreigners. You are not
allowed to use them, but you are allowed to carry it around for your own
consumption. And how big this own consumption is is hard to say, there are
no strict laws on that one. The guy from the justice department was really
complaining about it, they can't go strong on the drugs traffic, since
those guys just say that they are carrying things for their own
consumption, even when they are walking around with kilos.
This evening I visit Armurt, the organisation from Ananda Marga - for
those who don't know them, Ananda Marga is a Yogi group, which started in India
but is now all over the world. But apart from meditating for a better world
they are also working on it in practical ways. It is almost ten years ago that I
met them the first time, that was in Hungary, on a youth and environmental
festival I co-organised, called "Ecotopia". At the end of that festival I
gave the Ananda Marga Yogi who was there a bag with Polish money which we
couldn't use at that moment but for him was just enough to pay the last
half of the ecological farm in Poland they were going to open. Over the years I
got to know them as a rather active group, they are not really big, but
they are everywhere and Amurt is there were help is needed.
So they are also in Albania, actually they already were there before the
crisis started, they have been here already two years. What they are now doing with
their small group (there are about six of them here) is collecting food and
other materials from the big organisations, who have it stockpiled in
their warehouses, or from those who are able to organise goods and are able
to bring it here, but have no own warehouses or distribution. Together with
Kosovar volunteers they pack the food in family parcels and deliver
them in a particular part of the town to hostfamilies. Furtheron they also
want to build up a kind of community center in that part of the town. Last
but least they told me that they are an official registrated organisation
in Albania, and therefore entiteled to act as a receiver of Humanitarian Aid
and that they have a big warehouse, which they can never fill alone. So
let's start filling it.
The sunflower hostel is starting to become a lot like the peace hostel in
Zagreb. Volunteers, who just arrived, who are listening to the stories of aid
workers from small organisations, who have been already some time here, and
who have "seen it all". The two Germans from "Pro Humanum" and the French guy
from "Rock 'n Food" are very popular, the newcomers want to "know it all".
Is it true that..., are there so-called wildcamps, is that area really
dangerous, do this bandits exist, and where.... do some refugee really
get no food and others only bread..... how do other camps
look like, we have seen only the lakeside camp so far.
Ramona just said to me it is crazy in a way, the town is almost quiet and
the moon is hanging over it, what you hear is the dogs and the bass sound of bombers who are coming over, in one way it is so peaceful, in the other way it is the sound of war. Which seems to be going away quickly at this moment in time. The newspapers are telling us that Milosovic is willing to
sign any document now. Kosov@ will be open soon, is the rumour. Rumours
which are there in war time all the time, you go from one rumour to another
to find out what is really behind it, and most of the time they are just
That's Tirana by night.