At a glance:
Transition brought many changes to Albanian society, often with harmful effects on adolescents. Young people face risks, especially for sexually transmitted diseases, due to the erosion of the educational system and traditional family structures, population movements within and outside the country, organized crime, human and drug trafficking, and changing sexual mores.
Enrollment rates for vocational secondary schools declined by 89 per cent as many schools closed, mostly affecting poor rural families. However, enrollment rates for general secondary schools rose by 24 per cent. The quality of education has fallen due to overcrowded classrooms, lack of teaching materials, increase in the number of unskilled teachers and outdated curricula.
Young people leaving the school system have a difficult time finding a job. In 2001, just 53 per cent of youth 15-24 years old were employed, whereas the total employment rate reached 77 per cent. Forty per cent of employed young people have only temporary or occasional jobs.
Limited employment opportunities have forced many young people to emigrate, which has reduced by one fifth the population of the 15-24 age group. The nationwide Young Voices Survey (2001) found that 44 per cent of children and young people want to leave Albania. Adolescents want to emigrate to study or to find employment or simply because they feel their country cannot offer them a fulfilling future. If Albania loses its young population, its future is in serious jeopardy.
Those who cannot emigrate legally often choose risky ways to leave the country. In 1999, over 340 people drowned in the Adriatic Sea emigrating illegally by speedboats to Italy. The Albanian government estimates 6,000 trafficked cases, however international and national organizations suggest higher numbers. According to IOM (2002) an estimated 30,000 Albanian women and girls are working as sex workers in European countries. No one knows how many of them were trafficked.
Idleness and disillusionment encourage young people to engage in risky behaviours, such as unsafe sexual practices and criminal activities. Albania is both a source and a transit country for drugs. The estimated number of drug users is around 30,000. The main drugs used are heroin and cannabis, and three quarters of users share needles. Over 80 per cent of drug users do not use condoms regularly during sexual intercourse, and they have an average of 2 to 10 partners a year.
As of 2003, Albania has 123 confirmed HIV/AIDS infections. Health officials believe the real figure is 10 to 15 times higher, because lack of drug treatment and access to testing services and discrimination discourage people from being tested. Over the past year, two mother-to-child infections were registered, but three new cases of mother-to-child transmission were reported in September 2003 alone. The country’s ominous risk factors – population movements within and outside the country, poverty, gender inequality, crumbling traditional social structures and sexual mores, high infection rates in the region, little HIV/AIDS prevention information and increasing drug use – all point to an explosive situation.
The percentage of juvenile offenders (14-to-18-year-olds) declined from 1 per cent during the political upheaval in 1992 to 0.3 per cent in 2002. Juveniles committed robbery and murder most frequently compared to rape, drug offences and serious assaults. Juveniles committed 13 per cent of violent thefts in 1992, and this number rose to 19 per cent in 2002. The juvenile murder rate has fallen since 1992, but with its 10 per cent of all murders, it is still the highest in the region.
According to a recent nationwide study, 8 per cent of women have been physically abused by a partner, and 25 per cent have been psychologically abused. Children in these families witness the violence, and many are themselves abused. Domestic abuse transplants the seeds of violence and discriminatory gender roles into children and seriously thwarts their healthy development.
Some statistics may differ from UNICEF's official data due to differences such as definitions and sample size. Complete official UNICEF data can be found on the main UNICEF website at www.unicef.org