In Albania, since 1995, over 550 babies have been abandoned in the streets or in maternity hospitals by their mothers........
The maternity hospitals in Albania do not have the staffing, supplies, or budget to properly feed, clothe, or attend to these infants.
In August 1996, a non-governmental organization, Organization for the Support of Albania’s Abandoned Babies (OSAAB), was created to provide for these children on a daily basis, with the support of Albania’s expatriate community, Albanian women, and individuals and groups abroad.
Prior to the existence of OSAAB, abandoned babies were fed rice water and, occasionally, milk from other mothers in the hospital. They had no clothes or diapers, and were wrapped so tightly in soiled cloth that movement of their arms or legs was impossible for days at a time. They were not given names, but were simply referred to by numbers. They had never experienced the feeling of being held, cuddled, or rocked to sleep to the sound of a soothing voice.
Thanks to the generosity of many people, the babies now receive formula, diapers, and clean clothing on a daily basis. Volunteers visit the hospital daily to feed, hold, and talk to the babies. On average, ten babies a month, and between thirty-five and fifty babies a year, are provided care by OSAAB.
Babies remain in the maternity hospital anywhere between the first two weeks to seven months of their life. When they are ready, and only if room is available, they are moved to one of the orphanages located throughout Albania. OSAAB does not get involved with the adoption of the babies; it merely ensures that, while they are in the maternity hospital, they receive all the love, care, and medical treatment a newborn infant requires and deserves.
Above: A glimpse of the babies lives before the creation of OSAAB.
Above: a better life for the babies due to the work of OSAAB and its partners.
Our work has grown from the efforts of an informal network of loving volunteers to an organization that enables the hospital to provide for all of the babies’ needs, both material and emotional. However, the attitude of Albanian medical professionals and society at large toward abandoned babies has been a major obstacle for OSAAB to overcome. OSAAB has had to increase its focus on changing the opinion of the medical community and of Albanian society toward the babies, to impress upon them the importance of giving abandoned babies the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings. Despite our efforts, the social stigma attached to a child born out of wedlock still remains. However, we are seeing small but significant changes. For example, there has been an increase in the number of women who return to the nursery to take their baby home, something that was unheard of five years ago.
OSAAB still has much work to do, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. With hope, faith, and an occasional miracle, OSAAB will continue to make a difference in the lives of Albania’s abandoned babies.