A ‘young’ country on the move

Country Programme 2006-2010

The new UNICEF representative in Albania

Related information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child


Mr Palm's remarks during the fundraising event of the National Child Helpline "ALO 116" on 4 May 2012

I am supposed to tell you a sad story. A sad story of three girls, whose parents divorced. The girls are 3, 8 and 11 years. I have the initials of the children, the names of the witness, the name of the village where it happened, and the town where the local authorities reside. The mother and the father fought in court over the parental rights. At the end, the three girls were left in the village, in a house that was a ruin, with no electricity. The father had asked them to herd some cows. The girls took care of each other, and did not go to school.

Eventually, a visitor to the village called the helpline – ALO 116, who called the chief of the commune, who found an uncle of the sisters, but nothing much happened. The helpline then called the police, and the nearest office of Terres de Hommes, and the Regional Director of the State Social Service. Together, they arranged shelter for the girls. They ensured the sisters could stay together, and the mother is visiting them from time to time.

So we don't really have a happy ending. Because of course we all wish that children grow up in a happy family. But we can see that something was set in motion, that people were found who were concerned and ready to do something. Perhaps, a good permanent solution for the three girls will be found. By the way, this story not only happens in Albania, but in all countries around the world.

We all here love our children and - at least some of us - our grandchildren. We go through great sacrifice to make sure they remain healthy, learn something useful, and have friends. Most parents feel exactly the same. They would give everything for their children. But in reality, some parents can't take care of their children's needs or issues. We agree that in such situations, the community or the state need to step in. It is the natural thing to do. It is also what is required under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Albania is a state party. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most ratified international treaty in the world. Because everyone, whether poor or rich, whether on the left side or the right side of the political spectrum, in Europe or in Asia, whether man or woman can easily agree that the wellbeing of children is important.

But while it is easy to agree on lofty principles about children, it is much more difficult to put them into practice.

Here, we have one of the great success stories. A service that functions, day and night, seven days a week. Try it out. Call 116 and see what happens.

A children hotline has been recommended to all member states of the EU for several years. Of 27 member states, only 16 countries have a functioning line. Soon there might be a law that obliges member states to create a hotline for missing children. While still waiting to be accepted in the EU, Albania does not only have a helpline and a hotline, it has one of the best professionally run help lines on the continent. It can give a lot of other existing helplines a run for their money. Most importantly, it provides the calls free of charge, thanks to the readiness of all private and public telephone companies in Albania – and I like to thank them for this. It makes the service truly universal. It is not a helpline for rich kids, it is a helpline for all kids.

I hope that none of us will experience the horror of one of our children - or grandchildren - go missing. But just in case, there is the hotline, connecting to police and border controls, providing hope and a real chance of rescue. I know that all of us in the room are caring parents, but it is still reassuring that children have someone to talk to when nobody else is listening.

With this, let's celebrate success, and let us join to ensure that ALO 116, and the children of Albania, have a future.



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