Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe with 12.4% of the population living in poverty. Poverty combined with lack of basic services and increased urbanization has led to large numbers of children living under increased “risk” and denied their rights, especially to basic health care, education, and security.
Poor children are highly likely to live in large households, with higher rates of poverty in rural than in urban areas. Poverty is weakening familiar bonds, causing the increase in the number of children living with one parent and of those placed temporarily under the care of relatives or social welfare structures.
The infant mortality and under-five mortality rate remains the highest in the region 15/1000 births . Mortality rates in infancy and early childhood are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. In Albania infant mortality in rural areas (24 deaths per 1000 births) is twice as high as in urban areas (12 deaths per 1000 births). Level of parent education and family health status, mother’s age, birth order in family and birth intervals, are found to have correlation with the rate of infant and early childhood mortality. (pg117)
Roma/Egyptian children in Albania continue to suffer exclusion and segregation in kindergarten and school. Only 13.5% of the Roma children aged 3-5 are attending pre-school in Albania. 54% of school age Roma children have never attended school while 43% of Roma children aged 15-16 are illiterate. One out of two Roma children aged 6–16 drops out from school. 54% of Roma/Egyptian children of compulsory school age (6-16) have not yet completed school.
Violence against children in Albania is an issue of concern. The overwhelming majority of adults maintain that physical and psychological violence has positive effects on a child’s education, even though they are also aware that there are negative consequences. Children have absorbed the idea that physical and psychological violence are needed, both at home and in schools.
One out of every two children at home, and one out of nearly three children in schools, acknowledges that the violence exercised against them is necessary .
Harmful traditional practices
Child marriage among minority communities, such as the Roma, is common in Albania, with the vast majority being girls. Recent statistics shows that out of a population base of 604,000 adolescents (10-19 years of age) in the country, around 8 % (48,320) are married/in union. Also, the existence of a mentality which encourages blood feuds - revenge killings by a victim's family against the killer's family – continues to have negative affects on society. Media reports have referred to hundreds of blood feud killings per year and thousands of children living in isolation, thus depriving children of basic rights such as inclusive education. According to Government statistics, such killings fell steadily from 45 in 1998 to one in 2009, while the number of isolated children ranges from 36 to 57 countrywide, of which 29 to 45 are in Shkodra.
Children without appropriate care and children on the move: 100 words (street children, trafficking children, migrating children, refugees, etc)
Albania is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor, including the forced begging of children . Evidence shows that, during the period 1992-2002, about 4,000 Albanian children were trafficked in different countries, the majority of whom were from Roma families . Albanian victims are subjected to conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking within Albania and Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Western Europe. Approximately half of the victims referred for care within the country in 2009 were Albanian; these were primarily women and girls subjected to conditions of forced prostitution in hotels and private residences in Tirana, Durres, and Vlora. Children were primarily exploited for begging and other forms of forced labor. The Government of Albania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.
Emergency situations and children
In late December 2009/early January 2010 the region of Shkodra in Northern Albania was affected by catastrophic floods caused by sustained heavy rainfall and overflowing hydro-power dams. More than 5000 people had to be evacuated, including a Roma settlement of around 50 families. After the flooding had receded, these families moved back to Shkodra and re-built their shacks on the property where they had previously lived, still in deplorable conditions, and with no access to clean water or sanitation. None of the children in this community have been registered at birth, and none of them (all ages) have ever attended school. From observation, most of the children are in bad health condition, with stunted growth, skin diseases and uncleanliness. Main sources of income are collection of scrap metal and street begging (mostly women and children).
Exploitation of children remains a serious issue in Albanian and legal reform and building professional and institutional capacity to handle issues of abuse and exploitation is very slow. Official child labour statistical data on how many children work in Albania and abroad are not available. Different non-official statistical sources provide different figures. Thus, Chidren’s Rights Center in Albania in 2006 declared that there were about 50,000 children involved in child labour and working in the street . Albanian Institute of Statistics also have reported that 9.8% of children 6-14 years old and 32% of children aged 6-17 years work and many of them perform worst form of child labour such as begging, building, refuse recycling etc .
However, child work is more a rural phenomena rather than e urban one. INSTAT indicates that 2% of children who work are involved in trade activities and 95.6% are involved in agricultural activities. Most of the children who work are school attendees while 8.9% of them have abandoned it. The State Labour Inspectorate indicates also that child work is spread out phenomenon. It shows that currently there are working in the private sector around 133 thousands children. According to a recent declaration of Albanian Union of Education, about 60% of children who drop out from the school go to work .
Minor corporal punishment was reported for 58% of children, while 14% were subjected to severe corporal punishment. The proportion of children who experience severe corporal punishment is somewhat higher among children 5-9 years and among boys, compared with children in other age groups and girls. Children in rural areas are twice as likely as those in urban areas to undergo severe physical punishment (18% and 9% respectively. By region the proportion of children who experienced severe physical punishment ranges from 1% in Urban Tirana to 27% in Mountain region .