Suela, age 9, lives in Kamza Municipality. She hums to every song in Ariel the Mermaid and spends evenings playing with her older sister, who loves her the best of all the family. Suela has Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, a rare disease that occurs in an estimated 1 in 300,000 births and impacts physical growth and intellectual ability.
There are 360 children who, alongside Suela, live in Kamza and have additional disability needs. Pediatric occupational therapy is crucial for children like Suela as it improves the quality of life for them and their families, both short and long-term. However, until recently, they could not receive this specific therapy.
In 2019, Kamza became one of six locations to benefit from a UN Joint Programme to improve the delivery of social protection services. As part of this programme, UNDP and UN Women reviewed the community's needs. As a result, we identified children with disabilities and their family members as a top priority. Following this, UNDP provided technical assistance to the municipality to model and administer a home-based integrated social and health care service targeting every child with a disability and their families. We supplied a staff of eight physiotherapists, speech therapists (logopedics), psychologists and social workers, who worked together to provide integrated services and set up a centre to carry out the treatment.
The programme also supported the Government of Albania (GoA) in its work to transform its social protection and social inclusion policy. This included designing and implementing integrated social services, identifying roles and responsibilities of health and social service institutions, and designing a set of standards and protocols contributing to systemic change.
After several months of therapy, Suela's mother described the changes she sees in her daughter. "Suela can grab tiny objects. She can hold a pencil. When we started the therapy, the session with her could only last for 5 minutes. Today we had a session of 50 minutes," says the physiotherapist.
Suela's support is a relief for her family as they suffer from multiple poverty-based disadvantages. UN agencies work jointly with local public authorities to ensure that emotional, physical and social support is provided to the families needing it the most.
The new multifunctional community centre will soon extend services to other vulnerable groups. Such as adults facing social problems, including Roma and Egyptians, persons with disabilities, and older people in need.
Six local government units now demonstrate a better capacity to design, plan, and budget as well as staff and deliver social care services. They link social care services with other components of social protection—including cash assistance benefits, child protection, protection of survivors of domestic violence and employment and social housing policies—and services to provide tailored integrated support to families who need it most.
Today, 10,533 people, of whom 55 per cent are women and girls, report improved social protection thanks to the programme interventions.
The UN Joint Programme "Improving Municipal Social Protection Service Delivery" (IMSPSD) is funded by the UN Joint SDG Fund and is implemented in Albania by UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women, WHO, with contributions from ILO, UNFPA and UNHCR from January 2020 to June 2022.