“Here We Are”

Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Albania

UNICEF
Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Albania
UNICEF
07 December 2018

Inspiring stories of children with disabilities along with their parents, which were captured during 2018 UNICEF commissioned study on Children with Disabilities, brought together families and children, caregivers, civil society groups, decision makers and other key stakeholders to celebrate diversity and to experience to “feel in the shoes of others”, in an event called “Here We Are”. The event was organized by UNICEF Albania in collaboration with Down Syndrome Albania Foundation as part of a EU funded regional project “Protecting children from violence and promoting social inclusion of children with disabilities in Western Balkans and Turkey”. Like many other children in the world, children with disabilities in Albania are among the most vulnerable and marginalized, with a greater risk of deprivation, institutionalization and exclusion from community life. One of them is Drini,15 years old teenage boy, with Asperger’s Syndrome, who dreams of becoming a photographer. He is living in Tirana with his divorced parents. The father is completely detached from his upbringing due to his condition and moreover, has been inflicting emotional and physical violence. Only his mother, is now taking care of her son but they are still staying under one roof with an abusive family member, because the mother does not own the property. She has sought help and support for Drini everywhere, but very little was offered through public services and what was available was of a very poor quality. Through struggle and sacrifice, she managed to find a privately-run service and a private school, where Drini gets more tailored treatment and attention. However, these services come with the fees that any time may become impossible to cover. Drini’s story is just one example of many similar or much worse situation children with disabilities in Albania are facing on a daily basis. UNICEF in partnership with numerous Disable Person’s Organizations in Albania carried out an in-depth Situation Analysis on Children with Disabilities in 2018. The report, besides highlighting the overall depth and magnitude of various barriers to inclusion, brought voices of children and their family members directly into the discourse. The report findings confirm that children with disabilities and their parents/care givers face everyday survival challenges, let alone having a meaningful personal life, quality education, health care and participation in the community life. UNICEF will use these findings to further shape and tailor its programmatic interventions to assist the Government and key civil society actors to address some of the pressing matters, such as: data collection, synchronization and analysis; development of critical services at no cost for families that can’t afford it; early identification disabilities to ensure timely support to the child and family;, roll-out of parenting support programs especially in the rural and remote areas; and fighting stigma around disability.

UNICEF Representative, Roberto De Bernardi experiencing the challenges of a disability during the awareness event
UNICEF
UNICEF Representative, Roberto De Bernardi experiencing the challenges of a disability during the awareness event

This new partnership created with Down Syndrome Albania and UNICEF, is our way ahead to change people’s negative attitudes  towards disability. In addition, UNICEF will continue to support teacher’s trainings for inclusive education, so children like Drini could thrive and contribute to the society.In his address, UNICEF Representative, Roberto De Bernardi, reconfirmed UNICEF`s full commitment to work in partnership with the Albanian Government, Disability Person’s Organizations, parents and the children themselves, to achieve the breakthrough and mind-shift change towards better understanding of disability as part of overall human diversity. “Reduction of stigma, along with the removal of eventual legislative and structural barriers will remain our focus to ensure that every child with disability enjoys full inclusion and dignified life,” he concluded.