“Promoting the rights of the child; reducing poverty and unemployment; ensuring a decent job for all; addressing the Country’s emergencies” are among the priorities of Caritas Albania in order to “address society’s critical issues by optimizing employment”. In the framework of “2010 – European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion”, promoted by the European Commission, SIR Europe interviewed the director general of Caritas Albania Dr. Albert P.Nikolla, to discuss the Country’s situation.What are Albania’s latest figures on poverty? “Albanians living in the Country’s mountain areas and the suburban population, are marked by situations of extreme poverty. In cities like Tropoja, Kukesi, Hasi, Bulqiza, Dibra, Gramshi and Elbasani, poverty grew from 25.6% in 2005 to 26.6% in 2008. The slight increase is due to the lack of internal migration of rural population. While in larger cities the difference is more evident. Recent data show a 10 -13% increase. is The increase in abortion-rates, a result of the critical economic situation, is another reason for concern. In this framework statistics are clear: in 1990 there were 82,000 newborn, 52,000 in 2000, 33,200 in 2006. Birth rates plummet from one year to the next. According to latest figures, 19,000 less children are born in Albania”.Albania’s Caritas program “The poor help the poor” has been ongoing for some time already… “It’s a public-awareness program consisting in the collection of community donations. Stalls with the Caritas Albania logo have been installed in strategic areas of the Country (malls, banks, Tirana’s airport and so on), with brochures providing information on our activity and encouraging donations. The collected funds will serve to help those in need. This initiative produced positive results across the years, although the ongoing economic crisis has impacted donations”.Have more initiatives been taken to combat poverty? “The Catholic Church, through Caritas Albania, develops and promotes various initiatives which include: the construction of schools and health centres; support to children at risk and the abandoned elderly; medical and school assistance to Roma children and those living in depressed areas; multidisciplinary assistance to the disabled and to women victims of trafficking. These activities are all based on Christian values such as love and solidarity to those in need. Caritas Albania provides support regardless of the faith, ethnicities or social status of those in need”. Has a special project been conceived for the European Year? “Caritas Albania, in conjunction with Caritas Italy and Caritas St. Polten, promoted the Observatory on Poverty. Over 50 data-collection centres are involved in the project that consists in surveying all of Albania’s dioceses. In December 2009 we started collecting information on people coming to our Centres. All data collected until the end of March 2010 will be released at the end of May during a national conference on the theme. We expect this survey to provide real data on poverty in Albania, along with a detailed picture of all forms of poverty. At a later stage, once we will have analysed all cases, the poorest situations will be addressed with specific interventions”.Has the “Zero poverty act now” awareness campaign promoted by Caritas Europe for the European Year been presented in Albania yet? “Caritas Albania adhered to the campaign and promoted several activities to present it across the country. Our staff and the volunteers helped organize meetings, especially with the youth. We are presently organizing other initiatives, such as national conferences and formation workshops”.Caritas Europe has also drawn up a petition for combating poverty. Albania is among the countries with the highest signature-collections… “We collected 2500 signatures until now, most of which in Tirana. As Caritas, we have been seriously committed in this campaign. I think that by the end of October 2010 we will have collected 50 000 signatures across the Country. We are impressed by the community’s yearning to take part and contribute to the initiative”.
Caritas: an Observatory in the European Year