Emergency services for children at high risk (victims of all forms of abuse, violence, neglect, trafficking, exploitation, without parental care, in contact with the law and foreign unaccompanied and separated children) in Albania
Nisma has in the basis of its service provision a multifunctional approach, which includes from proactive identification during the provision of psychosocial service to juveniles in contact / conflict with the law in Tirana police stations and not only, direct field work, and from the referral system and reporting from other structures that provide services. The child identified in immediate danger and in need of protection is reported to the Child Protection Worker at the Administrative Unit where the child is identified, who proposes the measure for immediate protection to the directorate of social services in the municipality, a measure which is approved within 24 hours.
Nisma runs the only Emergency Shelter for children at high risk in Albania, including immediate intervention in the field, safe transportation and support in a police station after working hours, weekends, and holidays.
The emergency safe accommodation (Shelter) service for 11 years has preceded the need for a positive, sustainable practice in the child protection system, providing social services for children and their families (for children at high risk (victims of all forms of abuse, violence, neglect, trafficking, exploitation, without parental care, in contact with the law and foreign unaccompanied and separated children). It also enhanced the development of local and regional cooperation networks. Its aim is to protect and treat children unaccompanied in need of immediate protection and assistance due to life-threatening situations and guarantee their rights by providing immediate accommodation, food and a protected environment.
Earthquake Emergency in Albania
In immediate response to the earthquake emergency, Nisma in partnership with UNICEF Albania was close to children and families through Child-Friendly Spaces in 14 different locations offering protection and regular psycho-social support. After four months of functioning, the Child-Friendly Spaces was interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation, on March 9th, 2020. Nevertheless, Nisma psycho-social team kept regular online and face-to-face contact with the families affected by the earthquake. The immediate need for psychological support, due to the negative impact of COVID 19 on the psychological wellbeing of children and parents, especially to those living in temporary shelters, turned out to be the greatest challenge. As per Nisma’s analysis, this is caused by a complex traumatic situation to which many children and their parents have been exposed to. It is also anticipated that many will be likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of distress or somatization.The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Child Protection Units in the areas affected by the earthquake were found unprepared to meet the needs of most affected people. . The need for capacity building, technical/logistical support to Child Protection Workers (CPW) is immense and urgent.In addition to supporting children and families identified in need of protection as a consequence of the earthquake and Covid-19 pandemic, a team of 9 psychologist and social workers provided nonformal educational, psycho-emotional support, specialised psychological support, case management, social assistance, and support with hygienic and didactic packages to more than 2,000 children and 1,500 parents in 10 municipalities and 23 Administrative Units. Moreover, Nisma closely worked and offered its expertise to more than 55 professionals like CPW, community centre workers, and other stakeholders during face-to-face meetings, online, and inter-sectorial technical meeting.
CFSs are safe spaces where communities create nurturing environments in which children can access free and structured play, recreation, leisure and learning activities.
They are designed and operated in a participatory manner, often using existing spaces in the community, such as schools and kindergartens and serve a variety of age ranges, with the highest concentration of children being in the age range of 5-14 years old.
Practitioners are empowered with legal frameworks and operational tools to enable effective prevention and addressing of the situations of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
Supporting Afghan Families in Albania
After the Taliban took over Kabul in mid-August 2021, the security situation in the country deteriorated and the need for resettlement became more urgent. The Government of Albania expressed a readiness to temporarily host 4000 Afghans citizens. Since the first plane landed on August 27th, all the service providers were focused on basic needs provision, such as food, accommodation, hygiene, health care and clothes. As of end-January 2022, approximately 2100 refugees are accommodated in Albania, 1670 of them in Shengjin and 520 in Golem.
Through local organizations and Task Force coordination meetings, the gaps and areas where assistance is needed were identified. As state-led response efforts focus on providing basic needs, the additional areas of immediate need listed were Pashto and Dari translators/interpreters, social/educational activities, and mental health and psycho-social support, advocacy for establishing a more open relationship with the government as there were a limited exchange of information.
The rapid development of the resettlement process greatly impacts the individual’s psychological and social state. Mental health assessments and provision of immediate psychological interventions was lacking. It was crucial to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are receiving psychological first aid. They also should be receiving support and counselling in order to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Without access to safe spaces, refugee children and women do not have a designated area to focus on their own wellbeing.
Since August 2021, Nisma leads the psycho-social services and MHPSS, by providing support to more than 1500 afghan citizens through two different programs and partnerships implemented in Shengjin Administrative Unit.
Nisma in partnership with International Rescue Committee established within Rafaelo Resort, the first three different Safe Spaces (Women and Girls Friendly Space, Mother and Baby Corner and Child Friendly Spaces). A specialized team is implementing a full package of psycho-social and MHPS services aiming to provide beneficiaries with a protected environment in which they can participate in organized activities to, socialize, learn, express themselves, and receive psycho-emotional support, recreational activities and life skills, as they rebuild their lives. Mothers and Babies Corner, Women and Girls Safe Spaces as well as Child Friendly Space provide opportunities for parents and caregivers to be actively involved, share information, provide input and guidance, and increase their own self confidence to protect and care for children.
Nisma in partnership with Vital Voices Global Partnership is implementing the program “Emergency Provisions for Afghan Women Evacuees and their Families in Albania” by providing a multi-dimensional intervention by addressing in time all the needs and concerns of 500 individuals (from whom 150 children). A team composed of 8 case managers, 2 psychologists and 1 nurse are providing all the integrated package of services included: Needs and risk assessment, psycho-emotional support, direct support, safe transportation and medical assistance.
Moreover, in frame of both these programs, a considerable work and effort is done by Nisma on the first model of most appropriate reporting mechanism for the cases of abuse violence and neglect and GBV. A psychosocial coordination group composed by NGO-s has been established and conduct regular weekly based meetings, aiming to bring together all the service providers at Durres and Lezha. The collaboration with other service providers has been established within and out of the resort. Here is important to mention the collaboration established with Lezha Directory of Social Services for finalizing the referral pathway of GBV cases and Child Protection Issues. A wide Gender Based Violence and Child Protection Issues campaign is under development aiming to raise awareness in the community related to these sensitive issues, understand their approach as well as to prepare the community about the new lives in Canada and USA.