Skip to main content

Poverty and Tourism

Thanks to ITS for drawing my attention to a disturbing article in the Christian Science Monitor on child poverty in Albania.
Despite recent economic growth, a third of Albania's children live on less than $2 a day. And according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), a staggering 35 percent of children in rural areas are malnourished; in urban areas, 17 percent are. In terms of child malnutrition – measured by the percentage of children under age 5 who are underweight – the World Bank puts Albania just above Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.
On a different note, the latest report from IPS discusses the new legal framework for the development of the tourist industry.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Again, statistics that are suspect find their way in the mainstream English language media.

perhaps the English need to learn that simple maxim:

dont beleive a word (nr in this case) you hear, and only beleive half of what you see
ITS said…
Alwyn,

I can't believe you took that article seriously. How can you expect objectivism from the same newspaper dedicated to convincing people that dinosaurs and Jesus walked the earth about the same time...

The Roma-s will be fine. They are not better nor worse off that they have been for hundreds of years. A gypsy lifestyle has nothing to do with economic statistics.

As far as the 35% slightly malnourished stat, I can't help but wonder if it's much better this gem from the American Obesity Association;

"Approximately 30.3 percent of children (ages 6 to 11) are overweight and 15.3 percent are obese. For adolescents (ages 12 to 19), 30.4 percent are overweight and 15.5 percent are obese."

The only thing that worries me, to quote George W., is whether "is our children learnin'?"
our man said…
Hi ITS. I take the stats seriously because they come from UNICEF, not CSM. UNICEF is one of the more credible organisations within the UN structure. Even if they are overstating the case these are still disturbing statistics.
our man said…
Anon, on what basis do you assert that the statistics are suspect? How about some evidence.
Anonymous said…
oh they are very true! I don't even need to look at the statistics. I look at people in the streets. The Tiranians are taller, look healthier, better nourished. The new comers to Tirana in general are shorter and disproportional. Proportions and height are 90% nutritional and not genetical. And of course a Croatian who was born in the relatively rich Yugoslavia of the 70s (Serbs, in a plate usually have 5 different kinds of meats) is much healthier and taller than a Russian from some small village in the middle of nowhere. The sad state of affairs is that i can spot an Eastern European from miles away by the way their bones and faces look. On average in the world taller people live longer. I always like to look at the athletes parade at the begining of the olympic games. Richer countries have taller, stronger and healthier athletes. Consequently they look more beautiful because health is beauty. My favourites are the Belgian guys. (!!!)
Why didn't ancient Greek sculptors pick malnourished models but instead they chose men with a more proportionate shoulder to waist ratio? Because they were looking for beauty and again it lies in health.
It is scientifically proven in countless studies that what and how you are fed in early childhood will determine how your body will look and not only that. Usually malnourished bodies stomp the development of the brain.

So, I thank our man for reminding us of this sad reality.
I tend to mostly agree with the article. It doesn't take much research to see the sad situation in which some Albanians live in. Walk the streets of Tirana and you will see tens of kids begging for money or selling cigarettes and other stuff. And the situation is even worse in other parts of Albania. I see homeless people all over the world, but I never see kids until I come home to Albania.

@ the last anon,
What you say is mostly true, and usually well nourished kids usually grow up to be taller and healthier. However, keep in mind that the tallest people in Albania are not from Tirana, but from the north. But then one can argue, that they are taller because they have lived in a healthier, alpine environment.
Anonymous said…
alb in nova,
I agree with you that is why I used the term "in general".
Anonymous said…
Anonymous,
Regarding your claim about being tall is a sign of well nutrition.
You need to understand that Albanians are Mediterranean people and there is typical off the Mediterranean people being short..You can clearly see this with italian and greece people who have lot off similarity with the Albanians.
I have to say that the tallest people that i met are the Russian and they had pretty much the same problems as Albanians during the past..
I thing is more genetic than anything else. Yes, people are getting taller, but this is the case for the all the people..During the first world war the branches were about 1m e 60cm...That's tell you a lot about the high off the guys at that time..
As for the statistic i think there a bit exaggerated as everything else regarding Albania.
However there is major problem in Albania about it and saying that is a life style for the roma children is ridiculous..There is a lot more to be done on this aspect.
Anonymous said…
Ask any Western doctor who has worked in Albania, and yes, many children are malnourished in parts of Albania, particularly in the "forgotten" North and the end result is often the early onset of degenerative ailments. The fact is that Albanian children are not starving to death, but for many, their diet is not well balanced. Some education is needed and perhaps even some Government sponsored nutrition schemes. The "Government" will say they don't have the money, yet they wasted money on erecting numerous flags etc when Bush visited. Hope they saved them for Clinton's Autumn visit.
Just to put the other side of the story, many children in Western Europe and the USA are obese (they eat too much fatty food)- it's end results are seen in increased heart attacks etc in middle age.
With food, there needs to be a happy medium - everything in moderation.
nick said…
Arent Romanian gypses the worst off in all of europe? I was watching a documentary about them on CNN a while back and they seem to suffer more then albo gypses just cause they are used for sexual explotations by many western tourists. Very sad sight. However, in Albania too, the gypses live in the worst conditions. What's interesting is that during communism their number was quoted as 20,000-25,000 (at most) by the regime, yet they continued to have very bad standard of living. Very few were incorporated in public life and even fewer among party lines. Given the party's call for equality among the masses, and given that other minorities (greeks, macedonians) had the same standard of living as us, one can easily conclude that a racist element might be involved. Hopefully their situation may improve in the future as we hope to make some changes by joining the EU. Although Romania joined the EU and their gypsies still live in dismal conditions.
Anonymous said…
anons,
I don't know why you get so offended. Why are you people so sensitive? Lulja-mos-me-prek.
"I thing is more genetic than anything else"
It is proven scientifically that there is a direct correlation vetween height, overall health and nutrition in all of the world.
AS for Russians, in their 20s they still look like they're not over puberty yet. Just look at their arms and mostly faces and you can tell they are not developed! I'm sorry that i insulted your communist friends and hurt your feelings. Ok, in Facebook or msn, look at pictures of half meter above earth Russians'/Ukranians' group members and compare them with those of Holland!

"You can clearly see this with italian and greece people who have lot off similarity with the Albanians."
Yes, we are Med people as well and we have the most similarty with them. Don't compare Sicilian Italians and GReeks that came to North America after WWII and broke their backs building highways here! They had a harsh life and ate starches on starches. Bread with pizza, pita, pasta. When I first went to GReece in the early 90s I could see the difference immediately. Many Athens girls have 2m long legs!


How you look is only of a smaller importance compared to proper brain griwth and i mentioned it since some blind people in denial here can't accept the statistics. What troubles me more is the effect of malnutrition on the brain of these childen.


For those of you not convinced yet here is an example from a proffessional, but we have learned the same thing in biology class in middle school, if you remember. Anyway, with the power of the internet you can easily find the same results in other studies if your just search on google.

"A staggering literature on malnutrition (esp. in the 3rd world) has
established beyond doubt that malnourishment reduces human brain
growth. The actual size of the brain in both infants, children and
adults suffering from chronic malnutrition is substantially reduced.
Naturally this directly impacts intelligence. Averages of 15 IQ point
deficits due to malnutrition stunting are common.
Recent reports by Muslim authorities report that as much as 80% of
the children in their African and Eastern populations suffer from
substantial malnourishment and consequent brain development
intelligence deficits. More generally, this is broadly representative
of 3rd world populations. Naturally, lower levels of poverty in the
industrialized world are expected to have lesser impacts on brain
growth, nevertheless, it is obvious that some brain growth deficit,
due to poverty, stress and nutrition is probably experienced by a
substantial fraction of the entire world population.
The authorities cited here commonly refer to a persons
"genetic potential" when they speak of stunted growth either of
stature or intelligence. In other words, they assume that each
person has a genetic "design size" or theoretical size that they will
reach under normal conditions, and that severe deficits such as
"low birth weight" or "nutritionally reduced stature" etc. are
so severe in some populations that there is hardly a need to measure
it to recognize it as an obvious growth deficit below normal size."


http://www.bio.net/bionet/mm/neur-sci/2000-April/043617.html

If 35% of our children, more than 1/3, are damaged, how will it affect our society? How was our society affected by loosing 1/3 of its population to emigration? Imagine the same disaster in a continuous basis.
The supposedly forgotten North was mentioned. I have to say that the southern population is much larger and they are equally as poor.

last anon,
"The fact is that Albanian children are not starving to death, but for many, their diet is not well balanced. Some education is needed and perhaps even some Government sponsored nutrition schemes"
I agree. Even families that have plenty to eat make bad food decisions. I don't know why but when I get hungry at night I stare at the fridge for 5 minutes trying to figure out what to cook but I always end up grabbing the standard "bread and cheese". Even the tons of veggies we eat loose all their efficacy when immersed by your mom in oil of the "gjella".
What keeps us alive is the milk and eggs in the morning and the fruits.
You see we went back to Hoxha's time when the government was educating the public on tv on nutrition. If you weren't born yet, ask your parents about it.

I agree with the gov sponsored schemes. If breakfast was covered at school it would be different.
Anonymous said…
I agree with the above poster

Ask any Albanian kid that comes in the US. Many of them are diagnosed with TB and/or Anemia when they first come here?

Albania is not Bloku… as soon as you cross the city limit the poverty is very apparent.
Anonymous said…
ok, for those who haven't seen the difference yet here is an illustration comparing richer image obssessed VIP clubbers in Stockhoml to some others in a bar in Newcastle. Can you spot who is who?
http://www.jacatu.de/wbb2/t7850-swedish-versus-british-nightclubs.html
ローラ said…
ITS, although I feel nothing but revulsion for religion in general(sorry alwyn)-I would not write off the CSM as an unreliable source. I am surprised that you are not more sensitive about the Roma. It has become customary to pretend that all children with problems are Roma.

I would however say in full confidence that this article is absolute crap! (sorry again) Poorly researched and very very poorly written!

I did some research on the latest stats from both the World Bank and UNICEF and I could not come up with anything remotely close to what this genius concludes.

Even granting the data, the argument defies all laws of logic.
Apparently no one is certain WHY children are malnourished and MORE research needs to be done, yet the brilliant mind responsible for this gem of an article, clearly implies that this unreliable data is true because of poverty. then comes a narrow view of albania's post-communist development...the whole second page is basically a load of crap.

you can check the statistics for yourselves:
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/albania_statistics.html

that said, something needs to be done about the albanian diet. someone draw a food pyramid and teach people the importance of nutrition please! also, poverty IS a problem, i am only objecting to the degree here.
nick said…
"that said, something needs to be done about the albanian diet. someone draw a food pyramid and teach people the importance of nutrition please!"

Totally agree.
our man said…
Hello all. Have been feeling a bit malnourished myself these days as a result of a rather unpleasant illness. Lying here trying to recover and avoiding the heat I have plenty of time to range widely across various websites.

So I had the opportunity to check up on the Christian Scientists and their views on evolution and creation in the light of ITS' comments on Jesus and dinosaurs. I realise that this is peripheral to the subject but when you are killing time everything becomes interesting (almost).

Anyway, as I suspected the CS people are not creationists in the fundamentalist sense and don't have any great problems with evolution. Their problem with creation, evolution and intelligent design is that these all focus on the material rather then the spiritual and are therefore all inadequate as an explanation of human origins and human nature.

I'm sure you are riveted by now and want to read more about this so you can do so at www.spirituality.com - or you could ask Tom Cruise next time you're talking to him.

Regarding the statistics, I too could not find specific statistics for regions within Albania from UNICEF. However, in addition to the link you mentioned lolers, there is also a comprehensive UNICEF website dealing with child nutrition at http://www.unicef.org/progressforchildren/2006n4/index_introduction.html

This is useful because it provides comparative statistics from many countries and regions. The stats from Albania for under 5's are:
underweight 14%
stunted 34%
wasted 11%

On the basis of this I don't see that the statistics quoted in the report are too far off - though I agree with your comments about the conclusions drawn by the reporter.

The comparative data for the region is available in a statistical table at http://www.unicef.org/progressforchildren/2006n4/index_ceecis_table.html or in an interactive map at http://www.unicef.org/progressforchildren/2006n4/map/index.html

Lolers, regarding your revulsion for religion, I was thinking of responding with something really sanctimonious just to annoy you, but decided not to.

But let me assure you that as a good old-fashioned Baptist (Irish not Southern) I have no problem with you theological perspective on the Red Sox and the Yankees. And I would absolutely insist that your (non-)relationship with God is entirely a matter for you.

Have to say though that you can hardly expect to express revulsion for people's beliefs and then expect them not to be bothered.

In this respect that old atheist Karl Marx had it right. In contrast to contemporary atheists - Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett Christopher Hitchens et al - who express their revulsion for religion (and I'm not assuming that you, lolers, are necessarily sympathetic to their perspective)with great gusto and an almost evangelical fervour, Marx kept it simple and attempted, not merely to judge, but to understand religion. 'The opium of the people' we all know and in our contemporary society the idea of religion as a drug is, generally a negative one.

But the fuller quotation is more intersting: "Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness."

Marx (and Engels) believed that there was reason why people were attracted to religion that had to do with social conditions. Marx (and Engels) did not feel the need to write lengthy screed condemning, denouncing or mocking religious belief.

They believed that religion would disappear as the social conditions which gave rise to religion were transformed and so they proceeded with their project to be agents of that transformation. Hence, there are no diatribes against religion to be found in the very large body of work produced by Marx.

Even the first communist revolutionaries, while viewing religion beliefs as the product of social causes, were not so obsessively anti-religious that they felt the need to constantly denounce it: "We shall always preach the scientific world outlook, and it is essential for us to combat the inconsistency of various ‘Christians.’ But that does not mean in the least that the religious question ought to be advanced to first place, where it does not belong at all," said a certain Vladimir Lenin.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before communists of various stripes stopped waiting for religion to fade away and started trying to beat it to death. Why?

Perhaps because both society and religion stubbornly refused to conform to the expectations created by their ideologies.

Why do contemporary atheists feel such a need to beat - metaphorically - religion? Perhaps because society and religion are equally stubborn in their refusal to conform to their secular ideologies.

I'm sorry to have rambled on for so long and gone rather off subject. My excuse is my fevered state. And, again, lolers, please do not think that I am assuming that you share any of the above mentioned views.
Anonymous said…
"something needs to be done about the albanian diet. someone draw a food pyramid and teach people the importance of nutrition please!"

They actually include nutrition for a semester in middle school in "home science" and phys. ed., but when kids are hungry at school they can't focus and pay attention to the teacher. Maybe if color posters are hung in every classroom with that food pyramid they will remember it.
Anonymous said…
I hope you get well our man!
Anonymous said…
I was offended because it was the first time in my life reading Jesus beside Dinos.
Anonymous said…
anon,
"I'm sorry that i insulted your communist friends and hurt your feelings. "
What does that mean? I didn't even mention communism. This is bizarre.
I did not say that nutrition does not play any part of it.....It may well be.
However genetics is the main reason i believe.
How do you explain that people in north Albania are generally taller than the people in south?
As for the fresh air i can tell you that there are plenty of mountain and fresh air down south.
I lived for many years in Greece and Italy as well as Belgium...and i been to Holland too.
I mean the people in north and south off Italy... They got the same similarity of us albanians.
The same goes for the Greek people...As for the 2m long leg greek girl i can tell you there are extremely rare. Yes, the dutch are the tallest people in the world. And the belgium people are quite tall.
However the dutch are taller that the americans, australians or any other nationality. Does that mean that they are better fed than the others in the world??? Or does it mean that there food or there kitchen is better?? I doubted as you very rare see a dutch restaurant!!
And how do you explain that the Somalia people are quite tall? I mean Somalia is the poorest country in world. And yet elf you go to another african country is complete different.
And as for so called "my communist friend" i am not going to add anything else. I don't want you to get nightmare about it.
Anonymous said…
"I don't want you to get nightmare about it."
So, are you threatening me now?

"Yes, the dutch are the tallest people in the world. And the belgium people are quite tall."
I thought you said that the Russians are the tallest you have ever seen...

Just look at pictures from early July when Putin and Bush met. Bush was not standing tall and straight, pretending to be casual, leaning right to short square "shtupa" Putin so that his Russian communist colegue didn't feel shorter. What do Russians eat? Perogies, mushrooms,pure, and pickles. Some Belorussian told me once that when he was young they had nothing to eat and he would go outside eating grass. He even demonstrated how he picked it. Will they admit it to anyone? Of course not, only if you get close to them. You see, if Albanians have pride, imagine at the hurt ego of the ex-USSR, first in space, greatest nation with 20 timezones they thought they were. All the slavs i have met have a severe case of inferiority complex and I'm amazed how they look up at the "little Albania" when you go to school or work with them.
You were lucky to see one tall Russian, but they have a huge country and more than a 100 million people. If there isn't a tall person in Moscow, the most expensive city in Europe, where would they be?
Ex-Yugos though eat a lot of meat(which is good but it also makes you fat)and everything else in larger portions and look like human godzillas.
The Albanians that are well fed in EE terms, are healthier than the 2-dimensional Ukranians/Russians because they don't eat the variety of veggies and fruits to the point that we do. It is too cold up there for agriculture. Also, i have noticed that some of them don't like dairies as much as we do in the Balkans. Yoghurt, milk, butter are not as popular at all and many there are lactose intolerant. Give them icecream to turn them away. Or "ajke"
What is sad that we in Albania don't lack food at all, but sice many have migrated, no one harvests it. In a village I visited the fruits had fallen on the ground from the trees because all young people were working in GReece and only the elders were left. We have potential, we have a warm climate and it is a sin to let the fruit fall like that.

As for Greece it is true that in general they are taller. Athens now has 5 million people because they are experiecing internal demographical shifts as well. In the early 90s when the borders were opened the difference was noticeable immediately with the general height in Tirana vs the one in Athens. When i went to a jean store i noticed that in general they had longer jeans and some really long ones that I had never seen in Tirana. In Tirana I feel normal, but in downtown Athens I fit in the medium-short category.

As for Africans, they retain fat more easily. Their flesh is more bulbous. Give them a little food and they get fat. Plus haven't you heard that they eat spaghetti with babanas? They're diet is also chicken(meat) based. On the other hand Albanian women are seriously deficient in iron.

I have to say that the Dutch/Belgians have a long civil history and they take very good care of themselves. Their food is balanced, tasty but not too sweet,not too fat or too salty. They are active, they bike everywhere. Plus, of course the wealth factor weighs in.

It has been proven scientifically that genetics only plays a small part compared to how you are raised. If one's grandparents and parents have bad eating habits (and they think it is perfectly normal) that is how their children will eat all their life.

Compare South and North Koreans, and Chinese vs. Japanese.
If genetics played a role, and since all east asians look almost all the same, why haven't I seen chinese girls like these Japanese ones?
http://youtube.com/watch?v=yKDr-yAFuDI

Isn't the stereotype of the Asian being small, and considered as just genetic?
I find that South Koreans and Japanese stand out, and their parents are far shorter then our parents. They were raised in richer countries. That's all.
Why do you say Italians are short? Aren't Italians commonly accepted in Albania as being tall?
Tall Italians and tall French are gracile whereas Slavic tall ex-Yugss are broader. This is the genetic difference observed when they reach their best potential, so far.
As for Albanians in the North, some of them are really tall, but just a bit taller than a fit guy from Vlora. I'm reading a book where at somepoint it described the lifestyle of a character from the north and his family. They eat regulary, have a day schedule are more careful, take food seriously as a social event and drink plenty of milk. Whereas my grandpa from the south told me to eat whatever comes in front of me, possibly everything.
Anonymous said…
Our man, how are you? Are you getting better?

What are your views on the Kolbrin and the catastrophies it predicts?

Popular posts from this blog

Welcome

Welcome to Our Man in Tirana. I moved to Tirana, capital of Albania, in October 2005 and left in October 2007. This blog is a mix of photographs, reports, links, impressions and, undoubtedly, prejudices relating to the city and the country.

Since I am no longer in Tirana I am no longer updating this blog. However, there are over 300 posts covering this two year period and I hope that they are still of some interest.

So if you are curious about Albania or if you are planning to visit I hope this blog will be of value.

Whimper

And now the end is near
and so i face nanananana...

Never did like that crappy song.

But it's true nevertheless.

Tomorrow in the wee hours of the morning we will be heading for the airport for the last time. I suppose it was too much to expect that I could have kept this going while getting ready to leave. So apologies for the lack of postings over the last weeks. This is post number 380 something so I suppose one post every two days is not a bad average.

There were probably 380 more in my head or scribbled down on scraps of paper, but many of them are perhaps best left there.

I suppose I should be penning - or typing - my final thoughts and reflections on two years in Tirana, but right now I don't have any. Maybe in a month or two though I might come back with something.

Thanks to all of you who have read this blog - especially those of you who have become regulars. Thanks also for linking and thanks to all who left comments.

As for the other stars of the blog, Bella now has her own …

50 Ways to Make Some Money

The death of communism in Albania brought a flourishing market economy to life just as it did across Central Europe and Russia. On the streets of Tirana people are buying and selling, trading goods and services in predictable, or sometimes novel, ways. The shops are the most obvious expression of this. The streets are lined with little stores selling almost everything you could want. Freed from the choking grip of state bureaucracy Albanians are now at liberty to buy whatever they can afford. No matter how absurd the demand, someone will create the supply. Hence the preponderance of shoe stores in this city of muddy streets and torn up footpaths. Especially outlandish is the fashion for high heeled white boots - about as impractical a style of footware as could be imagined. Dotted across the city are the market stalls, sometimes just one person selling bananas, elsewhere a whole street lined with sellers of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and spices. Those who cannot bring thei…