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Press release

UNICEF Executive Director visits Roma community in Albania

Tirana, 3 October 2008 -  UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, on a two day visit to Albania, highlighted the plight of Roma children and efforts to strengthen the juvenile justice system.

Veneman visited a Roma community where approximately 100 families were living in makeshift housing by a large landfill in Tirana.

“An 11-year-old girl told me that she does not go to school because she has to work scavenging through the garbage,” said Veneman.  “A recent study found that there are approximately 5,000 Roma children between the ages of 3-16 years old.   Results showed that only about 27 percent of Roma 6-year-olds are enrolled in school and that on average, 43 percent of Roma children between the ages of 15 and 16 are illiterate.”

In a meeting with the Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, the situation of the Roma community was discussed.  Prime Minister Berisha expressed serious concern over the marginalization and discrimination faced by Roma, especially the children.

The Albanian Government is working closely with UNICEF to encourage Roma children to go to school.  The Government is also implementing policy to provide housing for the Roma community.

Veneman also visited a juvenile detention center in Tirana, supported in part by UNICEF.  One teenage boy accused of theft had been in the detention center for 7 months awaiting disposition of his case.

“UNICEF is working with the Justice Ministry to ensure expeditious handling of juvenile cases and flexible sentencing alternatives where appropriate,” said Veneman.

The Executive Director met with President Bamir Topi who has overseen recent justice reforms especially in the area of juvenile justice.
She also visited the Youth Albania Professional Services (YAPS) which is a sustainable enterprise that trains and employs marginalized youth and persons with disabilities.  YAPS runs several businesses including a cleaning and courier service that operates throughout Tirana.
UNICEF works on the ground in more than 150 developing and transitional countries to help children survive and thrive. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF works to advance the Millennium Development Goals by supporting child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, access to clean water and sanitation, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation and AIDS.

About the UNICEF Executive Director

Ann M. Veneman assumed the leadership of UNICEF on 1 May 2005, becoming the fifth Executive Director to lead UNICEF in its 60-year history. Prior to joining UNICEF, Veneman served as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.

At UNICEF, Veneman directs a global agency of over 10,000 staff and annual total resources of more than $3 billion, funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of governments, businesses, foundations and individuals. Since assuming the position of Executive Director, she has traveled around the world, witnessing firsthand the work of UNICEF, speaking at meetings and conferences, and visiting heads of state or government and other partners.

For further information please contact UNICEF office:
Anila Miria, Communication Officer, Tel:  069 20 24 185 /069 20 29 021

Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, New York, Tel; 212 326 7452 e-mail:  kdonovan@unicef.org




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