INVA HASANALIAJ

During the 2017 election campaign, the Socialist Party promised to begin implementing the 10-year national plan on multi-functional community centers during its second term in office. Faktoje investigated such centers in eight municipalities four years after this promise and discovered that they only provided services for children with special needs, rather than a broad range of services as promised. Furthermore, the center survives solely on foreign donations, with the government just serving as a monitor.

The Socialist Party promised to establish community centers for youth mental health around the country as part of its platform during the election campaign for a second term in office.

“In 2018, we will begin implementing a 10-year plan to coordinate and deliver services on mental health, palliative care, youth services, and drug use control at community centers around the country.”  (2017 – 2021 program)

A review of the Socialist Party official website regarding the healthcare reform revealed no information on the establishment of new community centers for mental health in Albania.

* Extract from the Healthcare Reform published by the Socialist Party

Faktoje submitted a request for information to the Ministry of Health, inquiring about the number of community centers, the number of children with disabilities in each municipality and other time-setting and services details.

* Request to the Ministry of Health and Social Protection

The Ministry replied that eight community centers for children and persons with disabilities had been set up between 2014 and 2020.

In 2017, we learned that the 10-year program also involved the establishment of new mental health community centers in various cities.

Extract from the 10-year plan

Following this reply, Faktoje travelled on the field to check the operation of existing community centers in eight municipalities and the development of new ones in Elbasan, Korça, Shkodra, and Tirana.

PwD center, Shijak

After being provided the information from the Ministry of Health, K. H., the Shijak center’s media communications officer, notified us that the Ministry had used the incorrect designation. This was not a multi-functional center; instead, it provided services to children with Autism and Down Syndrome.

Additionally, we were told that the center was funded by UNDP and had never received any funds or support from the Ministry of Health. The latter was only a monitoring body.

PwD center, Shijak, May 11, 2021

PwD center, Shijak, May 11, 2021

PwD center, Kavaja

In 2015, the Swiss Embassy supported the establishment of the PwD center in Kavaja. This institution was funded by UNDP on the first year, according to the center director, and now funds are transferred through Kavaja municipality. Daily services are provided to ten children with Down Syndrome and Autism, while intense therapy is provided to seven other children.  Furthermore, the Ministry of Health did not fund or financially support the center.

PwD center, Kavaja, May 11, 2021

PwD center, Dibra

We learned that the center was closed when we traveled to Dibra to visit it. Many locals told us that the center was mainly closed, despite the fact that it met all of the requirements.

PwD center, Dibra, May 12, 2021

PwD center, Dibra, May 12, 2021

PwD center, Burrel

PwD center, Burrel

The center for children with special needs, also known as the “OAZ Center” was established in 1994 to provide home care to children with Down syndrome and Autism. To deliver its services, the center rented the former city theater’s premises in 2010. According to the center’s directors, the Swiss Embassy funded the establishment of this institution, which was afterwards supported financially by the Dutch Embassy.

Inside of the “OAZ Center”, May 12, 2021

Inside of the “OAZ Center”, May 12, 2021

The center’s director, Saimir, told us that they had never received help from the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, even when he personally requested it.

“Never! No support! When I approached previous minister Veliaj for help with diapers for older children who needed them, he said the Ministry didn’t have a budget. I’m not afraid to say that they never offered us any help. In recent years, we have gotten funding from UNDP, which has engaged the municipality as a mediator, and we are happy with that.” – he said at the end.

To stimulate the creativity of the children treated at the center, Saimir stated that specific classrooms were set up for them to create various pieces of art, which are then sold in Switzerland and the profits are used to benefit the children.

Inside of the “OAZ Center”, May 12, 2021

PwD center, Mallakastra

This center does not exist, despite the Ministry listing it as a multi-functional center. Faktoje sought information from Mallakastra Municipality and the Ballsh health center, but no one had heard of such a center.

Ballsh health center, May 25, 2021

Mallakastra Municipality, May 25, 2021

PwD center, Ura Vajgurore

Faktoje was unable to contact with any of the center’s representatives despite the fact that the building existed. Even though we visited the building twice, on May 21 and 25, no one came to communicate. The center, like the other centers we examined, was established in 2019 with UNDP financial support, according to the sign at the building entrance.

PwD Center, Ura Vajgurore, May 21 and 25, 2021

PwD Center, Ura Vajgurore, May 21 and 25, 2021

PwD center, Përmet

Faktoje was accompanied by psychologist Noela Murataj to the PwD Center in Përmet. The center, according to Murataj, was founded in 2019 and now treats 12 children with Down Syndrome and Autism. Due to the pandemic in 2020, this center only operated for one month, however it reopened a year later.

PwD center, Përmet, May 26, 2021

PwD center, Përmet, May 26, 2021

PwD center, Përmet, May 26, 2021

The center was financially supported by UNDP, according to the psychologist, and the funds were passed through the municipality. The Ministry of Health’s only function is that of a monitor.

Premises of the PwD Center, Përmet

Premises of the PwD Center, Përmet

What happened with the establishment of the six community centers in Vlora, Tirana, Korça, Elbasan, and Shkodra?

Faktoje sent a request for information to each municipality. Tirana Municipality provided the following reply:

Reply by Tirana Municipality

The names of Tirana Municipality’s subordinate institutions were provided in a document. Only one of the seven centers on the list was founded in 2018, with the others dating back to 2011 and 2012.

List of community centers in Tirana since 2011

Faktoje continued its research to see whether community centers were established in Elbasan, Vlora, Shkodra, and Korça. The center for PwDs in Vlora was established and financially supported by Save the Children Albania.

Vlora Municipality website, March 19, 2021

The same information was confirmed by Vlora Municipality through an official email.

Elbasan

Elbasan Municipality told us that the Ministry of Health established a center, which is fully functioning using ministry funds. However, contrary to what was promised, it is a center for people with Autism, not a multi-functional center (which would include people with disabilities and drug addicts).

Korça

Faktoje asked sources from the municipality, who informed us that there is a residential center Residential Development Center – Korça funded by the municipality. This center is currently treating 36 people with special needs, including people with Down Syndrome and Autism.

Residential Development Center – Korça