January 30 2007
Helping regardless of national affiliation in Kosovo
30/01/2007 - SOS Children's Villages Kosovo offers support to families, regardless of their national affiliation, who are at risk of abandoning their children in this troubled region.
January 2007 saw the launch of two family strengthening programmes in Kosovo, located in the vicinity of SOS Children's Village Pristina. At first, the programmes will be administered in cooperation with the local social authorities, while at a later stage other NGOs will be included. The aims of the programmes are: to build self-reliance and sustainability with the families in order to ensure proper protection, upbringing and care for their children; to ensure that the children grow up in an environment where their needs are met and rights respected; and to build awareness within the community for creating a supporting environment for orphaned, abandoned and destitute children.
Reaching out to the poorest
SOS Children's Villages Kosovo is administering the first programme in Matiqan, one of Pristina's poorest communities. The community has only one hospital and one school in a population of 7,000 Kosovar Albanians. One-third of the families in Matiqan rely on social welfare, the unemployment rate is around 80%, while cases of domestic violence, child labour and gender discrimination are increasing. Currently, 33 families caring for total of 74 children have been identified as eligible beneficiaries. Most are single mothers, but there are also sibling-headed households and families where the parents are terminally ill or have psychological disorders. Some of these families survive on as little as 35 euros per month in a society where one loaf of bread costs 50 euro cents.
Fetije, the social worker in charge of the Matiqan programme, is optimistic about the programme's start: "Together with the state social authorities, we are conducting the first family visits and expect to complete the initial assessments at the beginning of February." Specific aid, such as limited financial assistance and donations in kind, will be offered in the beginning. However, the main focus of the programme lies in the development of parental and vocational skills for adults and educational development for children.
Breaking the isolation
The second programme is located in the village of Gracanica, south of Pristina, where the population is mainly of Serbian nationality. Since the 1999 conflicts, the nearly 10,000 inhabitants of Gracanica have led secluded lives behind barbwire fences protected by KFOR troops [NATO forces in Kosovo]. Around 130 families in Gracanica share the same living conditions and same abandonment risk as their Matiqan contemporaries. The Serbian families cope with movement restrictions and isolation, which deprives them of many public services.
The programme in Gracanica was moving with slower pace due to the travelling restrictions and bureaucratic delays. However, the word-by-mouth system has made the programme popular and eagerly-awaited among the needy families. It is expected that the first group of 25 families will be identified in early February. "The programme gives wide possibilities to act," says Ana, the social worker in charge of the Gracanica programme. "The isolation and the poverty constantly increase the psycho-social needs of the families here."
Due to lack of updated province-wide official records, SOS Children's Villages Kosovo (in cooperation with the local authorities) will also conduct further investigations of the needs of families at risk in these two locations. It is also planned to include other NGOs in the programmes, which would expand the scope of services to children with special needs, child victims of trafficking and female victims of domestic violence. The programmes are expected to run for at least three years.
SOS Children's Villages Kosovo established the first facilities in the province's capital in the winter of 2001. Today, SOS Children's Villages Kosovo runs one SOS Children's Village with three SOS families, one SOS Kindergarten with capacity of 120 children, one SOS Social Centre (for short- and middle-term placement of children in need) with capacity of 24 babies, and one transit home called "Beehive" for children with special needs, which currently provides care for six children. In 1999 SOS Children's Villages helped Kosovo refugees in Albania through an emergency relief programme.