Child protection in rural Albania

Human interest story

UNICEF Albania
Child Protection
UNICEF/ALB/Giacomo Pirozzi
18 October 2018

It is winter and the weather gets bitter cold in Devoll district, which is situated 170 km from Tirana. The  Municipality of Devoll has 48 thousand inhabitants distributed in 5 administrative units. There is only one crèche and 32 kindergartens for 949 young children, while 4120 children attend the primary school system.

The Municipality opened the Child Protection Unit in 2017, with Eneida Kello as the only Child Protection Worker. We met her at a small office which she shares with 5 other co-workers, who deal with economic aid, disability allowances and violence against women. “Despite the tough economic conditions and unemployment, the inhabitants of Devoll are generally soft natured. However, violence against women and children is still high”, says Eneida.

The domestic violence focal person states that they are currently dealing with 16 cases in which women and  children are victims of domestic violence. “Unfortunately, even in cases when the protection order is issued, the women and their children have nowhere to go to and feel safe. In most of the cases they stay in the same house as the abuser", she explains. There is no daycare center for children in the Municipality of Devoll. However, the mayor and the Municipality have recently identified a building, which can be turned into a day-care center.

“Despite the tough economic conditions and unemployment, the inhabitants of Devoll are generally soft natured. However, violence against women and children is still high”

However, additional budget and investments are required to make the center functional, including the presence of specialized staff. “Our budget is tight, but we try to do our best. We are amongst the few municipalities that uses 6 per cent of its own budget to support the most vulnerable families”. Eneida registered 13 cases that require child protection services in 2017, most of which belong to the Roma community. One of the most difficult cases she discussed with her colleague Xheni (economic aid specialist), was of a teenage girl, who was abandoned by her family.

Her father was in prison and her mother had mental health issues. She lived with her grandmother until she was kicked out of the house for no apparent reason. The girl was in immediate need of protection and at high risk of trafficking. Eneida started the procedure for her placement in a residential center in another city and requested support from the organization. ARSIS, is highly experienced in these types of cases. Eneida and Xheni traveled to visit her father, who is imprisoned, and obtained his formal agreement on the placement. The placement process was not easy for Xheni. Everything was different and unfamiliar in her new "home". She even escaped the place once, but was later found and persuaded by Eneida to give it another try. Now all seems to be better, she attends school regularly and is less anxious about her future. Eneida (CPW) is constantly in contact with the center to check on how she is doing. “Most of the cases are addressed by the police, but they are also identified directly through our fieldwork. We have established very good cooperation with schools, the State Social Service Directorate, courts, etc. There are some charity organizations operating in Devoll, which are of great help to us because they support highly vulnerable children and families with food packages and accommodation”, Eneida acknowledges.

“Most of the cases are addressed by the police, but they are also identified directly through our fieldwork. We have established very good cooperation with schools, the State Social Service Directorate, etc.”

We left the municipality and on the way back we saw a group of children returning from school. Eneida, the Child Protection Worker, explains that in Bilisht, the municipality center, similar to many other districts, children do not have much choice for leisure and recreational activities. They have only one choice, which is the summer camp organized in cooperation with ARSIS. “In the beginning only 30 children were registered, but by the end we had 150! The children are very anxious for the next one to start”, she says. The municipality of Devoll's social plan is being drafted and we have high hopes that more will be done to address children's basic needs, starting with the most pressing ones. With the financial support of the European Union, UNICEF and ARSIS are supporting child protection workers in Tirana, Devoll and Dibër to provide better and quality protection services to  Albanian children.