Less children left behind in Albania: Eris’s little steps towards a more inclusive life

UNDP albania
Jun 11 · 5 min read
Eris at the Center

Eris is one among 24 children with disabilities who receive daily rehabilitation services at the Community Center of Shijak.

When he started frequenting the Center a year ago, Eris behaved aggressively and rejected teachers and his peers. He would be once rude, once moody, once bored, once irate, and angry. All he wanted was to be left alone.

Eris’s mother says: “At home, he used to hide under the kitchen table, roll over, refuse to do any homework. Often, he had explosive tantrums”.

Eris and his mother leaving the Center

Eris was diagnosed with intellectual disability and needed specialized treatment”. In absence of a rehabilitation facility treating such cases in Shijak, Eris’s parents had no other choice but take him to a private specialized center in Tirana,one hour away from home,once or twice a week. Financial costs became unbearable for the family.

Eris and his teacher

The opening of the Shijak Community Center came as big news.The Center, currently run by the municipality, provides services for children with special needs such as: development therapies, speech therapies, or psychological support. Children receive one or two therapies per day,45 minutes each, depending on the needs. Therapies are tailor-made for each and everyone of them. To provide an example, a child that receives speech therapy goes through various exercises, such as breathing, or facial rehabilitation therapies.

Children during therapies

Since its establishment in March 2018, around 30 children with disabilities, aged between 3–12 years old, receive services in this center. There are about 50 children with disabilities in Shijak Municipality.

Playing and learning at the Center

This center is one among five community development centers where UNDP and the Municipalities work together to design new functioning models of community-based social services for persons with disabilities and other vulnerable population. Support includes refurbishment of the Centers as well as provision of capacity building for the professional staff.

According to a recent 2019 UNDP-commissioned study: ‘Needs Assessment for Social Services in the 12 Regions of Albania”, services for people with disabilities and disadvantaged persons account for 25% of overall social services. However, only 17% of people with disabilities have access to social services throughout the country.Such services are provided in 11 residential centers and 51 community/day care centers.

5 out of 51 community/daily centers have already been supported by UNDP which is currently up-scaling such support in six other municipalities across the country.

Eris at the center

In the framework of the Joint UN Programme “Leave no one Behind”, UNDP supports Albania’s efforts to expand and consolidate the safety net with more social care services for people in need, assist several municipalities to establish Local Social Plans as required by the Law on Social Care Services adopted in 2016. Such Local Plans are instruments intended to guide municipalities and other decentralized government institutions to address the needs of vulnerable groups and advance their inclusion in the social economic life of the community. The establishment of community development centers for children with disabilities is among the priority actions outlined in the Local Social Plans.

“Leave No One Behind’ program is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and implemented by UNDP, in partnership with the Albanian Government and UNIICEF,UNFPA,UN Women.