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Do You Speak Corona? A shortage in food supplies is a big concern for Macedonians in Albania

“It is very gratifying for us that in the largest regions of Albania where Macedonians live, no one has been infected so far with the coronavirus. The Macedonians in Golo Brdo (Gollobordë), Mala Prespa (Prespë) and Gora (Gorë) respect all containment measures taken by the Albanian government to prevent the spread of COVID-19”, says Nikola Gjurgjaj, the president of the Macedonian Association “Ilinden” – Tirana, a FUEN member for five years.

He and his wife Liesbeth offered us an insight into the problems their community faces during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the problems is that hardly any information material on the disease and personal protection were translated to Macedonian by national authorities.

The Macedonian Association "Ilinden" - Tirana keeps Macedonians in Albania constantly informed about the situation with the virus in Albania and in kin-state Macedonia. The Council of Europe’s representation in Tirana has also produced a brochure for the virus in the minority languages, in Macedonian, Aromanian, Bosnian, Greek, Roma and Serbian.

But the economic downturn caused by the containment measures is a bigger problem. Even before the current crisis, Golo Brdo, Mala Prespa and Gora, some of the regions where Macedonians live were among the poorest regions in Albania. Because of this they are now the hardest hit by unemployment, doubled by a shortage in food and medical supply. “Our biggest problem right now is the food supply, as there is not much help offered” – says the couple.

Tha Macedonians are an officially recognized ethnic minority in Albania. According to official numbers, 5500 Macedonians live in Albania. Unofficial numbers put their numbers much higher, up to more than 120,000.

On the cover photo: Nikola and Liesbeth Gjurgjaj

During April 2020 FUEN has conducted a survey entitled Do You Speak Corona? on the situation of European minorities during the pandemic. The online questionnaire focused on the availability of information related to COVID-19 in general, healthcare information related to the outbreak, the existence of an emergency hotline operated in minority language and the availability of online education in minority language. The short report on the results is here and you can download the whole report in PDF format by clicking here. This series of case studies is the continuation of the Do You Speak Corona? project.