Albanian street children’s plight recognized by study

22 Feb 2008 13:09:20 GMT

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Albanian girl begging in the streets of the capital city Tirana
Albanian girl begging in the streets of the capital city Tirana
World Vision MEERO, http://meero.worldvision.org

Some 293 of the estimated 800 children who work on the streets of Albania’s capital Tirana, according to the Child’s Rights Centre in Albania, realized their plight is not forgotten as they participated in a quantitative research study recently conducted by World Vision.

The study was part of World Vision’s Children in Crisis Laboratory of Learning global initiative implemented with the help of both John Hopkins and Tulane University in the United States.

‘The study shows Albania’s, street children face lots of challenges, so there is great need for help,’ said Dr. Paul Bolton, of John Hopkins University.

‘It has also helped bring to light the prevalence of economic challenges street children face within their homes as well as the widespread harassment and abuse they receive from the wider community,’ said Tonya Renee Thurman, MPH, PhD of Tulane University.

While working and living on the streets these children are exposed to harsh environmental elements (cold and rain) and psychosocial and physical violence. Based on World Vision’s quantitative study, 80% of the children reported to have experienced physical abuse on the street.’

‘Whether they are working or begging on the street we know that these children are exploited and internally trafficked. In some cases they are trafficked for forced labor outside of Albania,’ said Blerta Petrela World Vision Albania’s Child Protection Manager.

Of the street children interviewed, 94% were boys between 10 to 14 years old, and as many as half of them started to work before the age of 10. Some children belonged to ethnic minority groups such as Roma and Egyptian, while others were non-minority Albanian. In many cases the reasons the children are on the street were the same, regardless of whether or not they were a from minority group.

Family poverty is one of the main conditions that result in children begging or working on the street. Many of them labor an average of seven hours a day and others as much as 18 hours, with most of their earnings given to their families. More than 80% of street children work mostly during the day, hence school drop out is high among them. However, most of the children interviewed during the quantitative study reported that if they could they would be happy to attend school.

World Vision is in the process of developing holistic programs to address the needs of street children in Albania. The Children in Crisis Laboratory of Learning global initiative is enabling staff to have a better understanding of problems affecting street children, resulting in the design and implementation of locally appropriate interventions. Later, the impact of the interventions will be measured to identify best practices in the area.

‘World Vision works with the most vulnerable populations, focusing on alleviating their immediate needs as well as the root causes of their poverty. While children in crisis are a ‘symptom’ of more fundamental issues, responding to this group is an imperative driven by our fundamental commitment to the most vulnerable,’ said Brett Gresham, World Vision’s regional director for strategic development, Middle East and Eastern Europe.

World Vision is working with civil society organizations and partner NGOs to advocate and lobby the Albanian government to start implementing child rights policies and legislation. World Vision has been organizing trainings with parents, children, teachers and communities where it operates to raise awareness on issues of child’s rights and child protection.

World Vision is also a member of the BKTF network, a network of local and international NGOs in Albania that works against child exploitation, trafficking and abuse. In the summer of 2007, World Vision, along with Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Save the Children and Terre des Hommes, financed an anti-begging national campaign.

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[ Any views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not of Reuters. ]

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