From: Alice Taylor
Children with Down Syndrome in Albania Suffer Lack of State Support

An Albanian parent of a child with Down Syndrome has spoken about the lack of treatment costs high costs of treatment that are left to the parents to pay.

Anila Hoxha, interviewed by Euronews, whose daughter is just 10 years old, said she struggles to support her daughter and that help from the state is non-existent.

“Raising a child with Down syndrome today is very difficult because the state is non-existent. There are very few state aids. Aids are minimal,” she said.

“I have a 10-year-old daughter with Down syndrome, she is currently undergoing therapy at the “Down Syndrome Albania” centre. It has been a great support, but the therapies are expensive. One hour is 1500-2000 lek. A child at the beginning of therapy needs two hours a day,” she said.

Hoxha said therapy and support should be paid for by the state and not the parents.

“These therapies must be done by the state. We have been in a working relationship and have not interrupted his therapy for a single day. Other therapies will be needed in the future. The state should support these children a lot. “- she emphasized.

But the other issue arises in school as many teachers are not trained to deal with children with learning or developmental problems, and classes are overcrowded.

“My daughter is currently in the “Hasan Prishtina” school; she is in the fourth grade. Teachers are not trained for differently abled children. They can’t manage it. Classes are overcrowded. My daughter has a support teacher but only has her for two hours. ” she said.

Exit sounded the alarm about this issue back in 2021, noting that there were some 74,537 people in Albania with disabilities.

Intellectual disabilities include Down syndrome, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). There are 681 people living with Down syndrome in Albania, about half of which (305) are under 18 years old.

According to a World Vision study conducted in 2018, 1 in 10 children aged 2-17 exhibit a high rate of behaviour difficulties such as attention disorders, communication or learning difficulties, memory problems, inappropriate behaviour, hearing and vision issues, difficulty in engaging in social relationships, among others.

As of now, people with disabilities receive a government allowance of €85 per month, which does not cover private therapy costs, which are nearer EUR 365 per month. Furthermore, out of 55,237 persons with disabilities, only 2,248 received care services in public care centres across Albania.

Aferdita Seiti, head of “Help the Life”, a local NGO for people with disabilities, said that “the state should set up programs for the treatment of people with intellectual disabilities from an early age to make them more independent when they grow up.”

She underlined that children and families should have access to early assessment and receive guidance based on the child’s needs.

In all of Albania, this assessment can only be done in two centres, both located in Tirana.

Mental health and other learning difficulties are widely not supported in the private or public sector in Albania. Those seeking help often face stigma, dismissal, high costs, or a lack of availability of medicines locally.

In Depth: Albanian Mental Health Sector: Underfunded, Understaffed, and Not Understanding