Albania, a small country located in the Balkan, has a harsh and troubling history. From a constructing of half-a-million bunkers due to fear of a foreign invasion to multiple economic crises, corruption and civil unrest, Albania has seen it all. Such disruptions have taken a toll on the Albanian people, especially its children. As the situation in Albania gradually improves, targeting child poverty has become a significant focus of the international community. In the text below, 10 facts about the child poverty in Albania are presented.
10 Facts About Child Poverty in Albania
- Albania has a total population of 2.8 million. Out of this number, the number of Albanians under the age of 19 is around 1 million, which represents more than a third of the population. This places Albania’s populace in the second place of youngest countries in all of Europe, that creates an ever-increasing urgency to end child poverty and break the cycle of poverty in the country.
- The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) outlines the most significant threats to the Albanian children as growing economic disparities, social exclusion and discrimination violence and exploitation, domestic violence, lack of access to health and education services and, finally, malnutrition.
- In 2012, approximately 17.4 percent of Albanian children lived in absolute poverty while 1.8 percent lived with families who had no income. Furthermore, there is a measurable gap between poverty levels in rural and urban areas. However, this gap has narrowed to a difference of only 1.7 percent of those living in poverty in rural and urban areas.
- The Albanian government launched the Economic Aid (E.A.) programme in hopes of transferring cash and assistance to the country’s poorest. But by 2008, coverage had fallen to less than 7 percent due to stricter eligibility criteria and results showed only 0.4 percent of people lifted out of poverty.
- UNICEF attributes one-third of child deaths to malnutrition in Albania and has seen rates directly affected by wealth, geographic location, different residence (urban or rural) and education level of the mother. Child poverty and malnutrition in Albania are especially more prominent in resource-poor rural households and urban neighborhoods with high unemployment rates. According to a 2010 survey, up to 43 percent of these households had difficulties in providing food for their families on a yearly basis.
- Besides malnutrition, access to health services and other factors greatly hinder young Albanians from living healthy lives. For instance, the mortality rate of children under 5 in Albania is 17 per 1,000 children. In urban areas, the rate drops to 13 children, but more than doubles to 28 in rural parts of the country. On top of these statistics, primary health care and basic health services are severely underfunded and 90 percent of Albanian families cannot pay for their health care.
- The Romani (or Gypsy) children living in Albania are particularly at risk of poverty due to the discrimination they experience and the lack of institutions that support their cultural and linguistic background. In 2011, UNICEF conducted research on the Romani population and found that 40 percent are illiterate, only 25 percent of Romani children attend pre-school or early education institutions and 75 percent are considered very poor.
- While drop-out rates are only about 0.37 percent and the percent of children who never attended school is at 1.05 percent, the quality of education is still a challenge for the Albanian government. The vast majority of funding is given to teacher salaries and infrastructure (important parts of the successful educational system), but too little is given to development, services and quality of providing education.
- Due to the social and cultural attitudes of Albania, physical and phycological violence against children are often tolerated or even encouraged. A UNICEF study in 2006 revealed that most adults think physical or phycological violence has positive effects on children. Moreover, 50 percent of children have absorbed these ideas and believe that violence is needed at home and in school. In addition, children are exploited into forced labor since there basic social services and safety nets are lacking.
- Despite child poverty in Albania, UNICEF and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have done tremendous work through humanitarian aid and action. For example, UNICEF has largely focused on lobbying and working with the Albanian government and international community in providing long-term protections for the children in the country. As of 2016, UNICEF and the Albanian government have launched ambitious reforms in the social, economic, health and educational sectors in order to curtail childhood poverty. Furthermore, USAID has contributed nearly $500 million in foreign aid to Albania since 1992 with the goal of strengthening democracy, curtailing corruption, promoting civil society and gender equality and creating a more equitable economy.
Perhaps the biggest organization influencing poverty in Albania is the European Union (EU). While Albania is a candidate for the EU, the organization is requiring that the country progresses on political and economic reforms, improves governance and the rule of law and observes human rights standards.
Albania has shown that it values a future of being an E.U. member, which would be a significant step to building a stronger relationship between the United States and Albania. But in the first place, foreign aid will is needed to create a system capable of protecting every child and ending child poverty in Albania.
– Tanner Helem