SOS Children's Villages started its work in Albania in 1992. SOS Children's Villages involvement in Albania has grown in recent years, and includes the provision of day-care, primary and secondary education, vocational training and counselling to support children, young people and families near the capital city of Tirana.
Some facts about Albania
Albania is located in south-eastern Europe. The country is bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the west, Greece to the south, the Republic of Macedonia to the east, Montenegro to the north and Kosovo to the north-east. The capital and most important city is Tirana. There are just under 3 million people living in Albania, of which 32.6 per cent are children under the age of 18.
Children playing in SOS Children's Village Tirana - photo: Benno Neeleman
The main religion is Islam (70 per cent), a fifth of the population is Albanian Orthodox and one tenth is Roman Catholic. The languages most commonly spoken are Albanian (Tosk is the official dialect) and Greek.
Corruption slows down economic progress
Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with two per cent of the population living under the poverty line. The unemployment rate is 13 per cent (September 2010 est.). Agriculture accounts for over half of employment but remains inefficient due to the lack of modernisation and increasing land fragmentation.
As a result of the economic crisis of the 1990s, many Albanians were forced to leave the country in search of work; their remittances still form an important part of the gross domestic product. Basic services such as health, education or social support also suffered as a result of the crisis. This lack of support has had an effect on the lives of children, exposing them to increased discrimination and exploitation. Violent and organised crime and corruption remain abundant and continue to threaten vulnerable groups in society.
Situation of the children in Albania
There are an increasing number of children who are at risk of losing parental care, due to economic reasons, lack of social protection and policies to support families. Many household heads have migrated in search of work and this has weakened traditional family structures.
Children often have to start working at an early age, and either drop out of education or work alongside attending school. According to UNICEF, around 12 per cent of children between the ages of 5-14 are involved in child labour. Children from families in rural areas, where the infrastructure is underdeveloped, are most at risk. There is more poverty in rural areas and access to health and social services is limited. The child labour rates in rural areas are four times higher than in urban areas.
Two boys drawing, SOS Children's Village Tirana - photo: Katerina Ilievska
Vulnerable children from deprived backgrounds are at risk of falling into the hands of organised crime. Girls in particular are susceptible of being trafficked to other areas of Europe and the Balkans.
SOS Children's Villages in Albania
SOS Children's Villages started its work in Albania in June 1992 after SOS Children's Villages co-workers visited several national children's homes in the country's capital, Tirana and SOS Children's Villages decided to act by starting up a centre in Tirana. Children and families from the local communities can find support from SOS Children’s Villages. The organisation works with local agencies to provide a variety of programmes which enable children to grow up in their families. If children cannot stay with their families, they can be looked after by the SOS mothers. Young people can live semi-independently in flats until they are ready to live on their own.
(available in English and Albanian)