Albania has made a series of important steps in adapting the national legal framework to the international standards.It continues to be committed to the continuous improvement of standards related to the protection and implementation of human rights and freedoms. A clear expression of this commitment is the ratification and signature of almost all international conventions on human rights, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There are a serious of considerations that can be written down concerning the normal standards for the health and development of a child in the area of housing.
First of all, the law on the Protection of the Rights of the Child issued on 4 November 2010 and more specifically the Action Plan for Children 2012-2015, focus on five main areas very important to the well being of children. Social inclusion and the right to development are certainly important milestones to pursue regarding housing.
The Albanian legislation has during these years of democracy made serious advancements in the laws regarding children:
- Law No. 9098, dated 3 March 2003 “On the Integration and Family Reunion of Persons with Asylum in the Republic of Albania” establishes procedures for the enjoyment of the right to education, employment, health and social securities, housing, and family reunion of individuals with asylum in the Republic of Albania.
- The National Strategy “On Improving the Living Conditions of the Roma Community” (approved by DCM No. 633, dated 18 September 2003) sets objectives in the areas of: education, vocational training and employment, health care, social protection and social services, housing, transport, participation in social life, culture, etc.
The most vulnerable part of society and especially among children are the Roma community. The legal basis does not create premises for Roma discrimination in the field of housing and other basic services. Real steps have been undertaken to tackle this ongoing problem. Under the project “On the building of social housing” opportunities are created for the Roma community. However, Roma families should be provided with legal assistance in order to be able to benefit from this scheme. A serious commitment to improve the Roma conditions is the signing of the Roma Inclusion Decade in 2008 in the fields of education, health, employment and housing. The Roma still face very difficult living conditions and frequent discrimination, particularly regarding access to employment and adequate housing, leading to marginalization. The Plan for the Roma Decade encompasses six fields such as education, cultural heritage, integration in the labour market, improving access to health services, improving housing and infrastructure conditions and prevention and control of social and institutional discrimination against Roma. If the proper financial means were to be dislocated this could be the solution to the great Roma children’s housing problem.
A very important issue that the Albanian government and the state institutions have to face is the provision of housing services for the victims of domestic violence. Pursuant to the law no. 9669, dated 18.12.2006 “On the measures against domestic violence” in order to support the victims of domestic violence and amendments to this law a year ago was enabled the establishment and functioning of the first National Center of the victims of domestic violence. Until now this center has treated over 20 cases of women victims of domestic violence together with their 16 children.
Another very important reform that is being worked under is the social accommodation policies. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is in process of reviewing the Law no.9232, dated 13.05.2004 “On the social programs for the accommodation of the inhabitants of urban zones”, amended. The MLSAEO among other proposals has asked some amendments to “The criteria of selection of beneficiaries”, where are added as a category that benefit accommodation even the women victims of domestic violence. Actually the draft is in under discussion in the Parliamentary Commissions.
According to the UNICEF survey “Baseline Nutrition and Food Security Survey” of 2012 over the past decade, the nutrition situation has improved greatly for many Albanians.
As demonstrated by a number of national surveys carried out between 2000 and 2009, there has been an overall improvement in the nutritional status of children, with rates of stunting (low height for age) and wasting (low weight for height) among children under five decreasing significantly (from 34 % to 19 % and from 11 % to 7 % respectively). According to the 2007 Albania Poverty Assessment, the number of poor and extremely poor households has also significantly decreased.
Legislation in the field of health lies on the principles of equality and justice. The Strategy of the Ministry of Health aims to redistribute, rehabilitate existing health care centres, and cover the entire country with health centres and ambulances according to European standards. Health care units offer post birth care for mother and child, including counselling on breastfeeding, nutrition, and family planning. The Committee on the Rights of Child in its report in September 2012 observed that there is a child under-nutrition and obesity. The Government of Albania in its state report underlined how there was a three-year programme funded by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF on nutrition, security and safety, which addressed stunting and included the provision of supplements.
Several studies like “The Economic Consequences of Malnutrition in Albania” UNICEF 2010 have shown that Albanian children still have problems of malnutrition, although the situation of under-nutrition has improved. These studies show that under-nutrition, despite the slight improvement, continues to affect rural families and the big urban families with irregular income. The poor access to quality health care, the high level of poverty in the remote areas, and the big households are evidence that under-nutrition continues to be a big challenge in the rural areas, in particular in north and north-eastern Albania. Currently, Albania is drafting a new National Action Plan on Food and Nutrition, for the period 2009–2014.
A series of actions have been taken to raise the level of good nutrition in children:
- Law No. 9863 dated 28 January 2008 “On Food” is designed to establish the basis for a higher level of safety of human health and consumer‟s interests, by setting safety standards. Food safety includes the range of measures to reduce risk in the entire food production chain, from the primary producer to the consumer. Based on this law, the National Food Authority has been created at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Consumer Protection
- The Ministry of Health, based on WHO and FAO recommendations, has designed the national dietary instructions with recommendations on healthy eating and special recommendation for babies‟and children‟s nutrition.
- In cooperation with UNICEF, the Ministry of Health has designed nursery standards, including nutrition standards for children in nurseries.
- In cooperation with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Consumer Protection started in 2009 to design a strategy on Reduction of Child Malnutrition and its action plan to improve the health situation of infants and young children in Albania, with particular focus on groups in need.
ACCESS TO MEDICAL CARE
Albania during these years has undertaken a series of reforms regarding the access to medical care of children and young adults. The reform in the primary health care, which started in December 2006, aimed at improving the performance of primary health care, including childcare, with priority emphasis on access and quality services for mother and child. This reform aimed at the: (a) design of a package of basic primary care to be offered free to the entire population. Part of the package would be the prevention, treatment, and promotional services for children. Service for children in the primary care level is free of charge.
The package clearly defines the types of services for children, their purpose, type of management for usual child disease, prevention care, awareness building, capacities of the health personnel involved with children, referral system, community services, standards to be met by the system in accordance with instructions for clinical practice designed by the university departments of family and pediatric medicine, the equipment and medications in the centres, as well as unified medical documentation; (b) establishment of a monitoring system over medical services, and review of medical units serving children in the primary care level; (c) preparation of instructions, regulations, unified standards on mother and child health;(d) training of personnel involved in childcare to improve their knowledge and skills.
Legislation in the field of health is also expressly based on the principle of non-discrimination. Health services for children at the primary level, offer services without any kind of discrimination or bias. The Code of Ethics and Medical Deontology of the year 2002 provides that the doctor should offer medical help to all, without distinction of age, sex, race, nationality, religion, political conviction, economic situation or social status, in full respect for the dignity of each individual. This Code states that in exercising his profession, the doctor should be particularly committed to the care of children.
A lot has to be continued in this aspect. It is of fundamental importance to continue to tackle the problem of adequate and free medical care services for all children and youngsters in Albania.
Access to education
According to the European Commission Progress Report of 2012 “There has been good progress in the areas of education, training and youth. The Law on Pre-university Education was adopted in June 2012. Further training has been provided to build the capacity of teachers and to adapt training and educational provision to the labour market. The National Inspectorate for Pre-university Education has continued to carry out inspections applying new guidelines for the inspection and evaluation of kindergartens and schools…”
The Law “On the Pre-University Education System in Albania” (with amendments) guarantees the right to education to all citizens, despite social status, nationality, language, gender, religion, race, political convictions, health condition or economic status. MES pays special attention to elimination of all forms of discrimination in the pre-university system. To implement its educational policies, MES relies on the National Strategy on Pre-university Education, which makes a priority objective of “Guaranteeing full access to all levels of education, free of any forms of discrimination based on colour, ethnicity, disability or religion. However, although the legislation on pre-university education and the National Strategy make equal access of children to compulsory education a top priority, in practice there is an absence of efficient mechanisms to ensure realization of this goal. An example of this problem in practice is enforcement of the policy that parents must ensure the attendance of their school-aged (6-16) children. Parents who fail to do so, whether through neglect or by actively dissuading attendance, are liable to a fine of 1,000 to 10,000 Lek in accordance with administrative law regulations. These sanctions are not, however, implemented because school principals have not been instructed on how to implement these measures.
The Albanian legislation contains a number of provisions guaranteeing the right of the child to life and development.The legal framework in this field states that the Albanian citizens enjoy equal rights to be educated at all levels of education foreseen by the law. In the recent years Albanian education has been constantly changing and improving the quality of education, the transparency, efficiency, and governance towards gradual expansion of school autonomy, bur still the myriad of by-laws produced by the Ministry of Education- on Roma and illiterate children for example, have not prevented the de facto drop out of children in high risk categories.
Children with disabilities face similar difficulties. The Ministry of Education and Science has not yet prepared the necessary by-laws to ensure that the basic educational needs of special needs children can be met in practice. There is a marked absence of the necessary physical infrastructure and specialized teachers. In many cases, children are mainstreamed into already large and under-resourced classes and, consequently, teachers do not even have the time to tend to special needs children.
If legislation exists in your country to protect children from suffering, what are the key points in the legislation?
Following ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1992, children’s rights in Albania have been increasingly part of an agenda for the development of national policies and a legal and institutional framework. The Family Code (2003) provides for loss or removal of parental rights in cases where parents commit criminal acts against their children, or where they use the children as collaborators in a criminal act. The Law “On measures against violence in family relations” provides inclusion of rehabilitation programmes (2008). The purpose of the Law “on social aid and services” (2005) does not determine the provision of services for treatment of child victims of violence and it does not foresee a referral system for such children. Supporting strategies, such as the “National Strategy for Children” (2005 - 2010) and the National Action Plan, address the issue of protection of children from domestic violence, violence at school and in the community, their protection from abuse and negligence (social exclusion) and protection from all forms of exploitation, and they foresee a special section for protection of girls, though these plans have yet to be implemented. The “National Strategy on Combating Trafficking in Persons” (2008–2010) and the additional document “National Strategy on Combating Trafficking in Children and Protection of Child Victims of Trafficking” cover the phenomena of trafficking, exploitation and sexual abuse. However, raising awareness of all forms of exploitation and sexual abuse, including emphasis on male minors, and its inclusion in the school curricula is incomplete. Issuance of the Law “On protection from domestic violence” has increased significantly the number of cases of violence reported mainly by mothers, cases in which children were witness to the violence and as such feel themselves violated.
It must be underlined that Albania has adopted a great number of legislative measures towards the protection of children from violence and all forms of maltreatment:
- The Law No. 10347 on the Protection of the Rights of the Child in November 2010;
- The Law No. 10221 on the Protection against Discrimination in February 2010;
- The Law No. 9669 on Measures against Violence in Family Relations in December 2006.
Moreover it has ratified or accessed to:
- The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict in December 2008;
- The Optional Protocol to the Convention on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in February 2008;
- The Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in November 2007;
- The First and Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in October 2007;
- The Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrants Workers and Members of their Families in June 2007; and
- The Hague Convention No. 23 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions relating to Maintenance Obligations and No. 24 on the Law applicable to Maintenance Obligations in August 2011.
A large number of laws have been adopted in a short period of time, which was the result of the influence of the European Union combined with Albania’s own commitment to changing its institutions. While the adoption of new legislation is important, its implementation was equally important.Nevertheless, at present, Albania lacks a primary legislation that deals with all forms of child abuse and neglect in all settings. According to an analysis of the child protection system in Albania commissioned by UNICEF (Hamilton, Malby, & Ross, 2007), three issues need to be urgently addressed: 1) the lack of a legal definition of a child at risk; 2) the absence of a legal basis for child protection referrals; and 3) the lack of a legal framework for addressing emergency child protection situations.
One of the main and focal points in the Law No. 10347 on the Protection of the Rights of the Child in November 2010 is Article 32 of the Law for the Protection of Children’s Rights defines the institutionalmechanisms for the protection of children’s rights at central and local level.
Mechanisms at central level are:
- The National Council for the Protection of Children’s Rights;
- The Minister who coordinates the work related to child rights protection issues;
- The State Agency for the Protection of Children’s Rights.
Mechanisms at local level are:
- Child rights unit in the district council;
- Child rights unit in the municipality/commune.