Romani Poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ever since the end of the war in 1996, poverty and hardship has marked Bosnia’s fight for independence. This has left the country the second most impoverished nation in Europe, behind Bulgaria. Bosnia’s most impoverished group is the Romani or Roma. They are struggling to keep their households fed and facing challenges of discrimination and isolation. They have lost hope that the government will help them. Here is some quick, up-to-date information on the current state of Romani poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Romani Poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Poverty in Rural Areas: People living in rural areas of Bosnia are more impoverished in comparison to the population living in urban areas. The poverty rate of those living in rural areas is 19%, with urban areas being 9%.
  • Intergenerational Poverty: The rate of Romani intergenerational poverty in Bosnia is very high. This is due to certain household’s lack of funding, skills or education necessary to put children through primary school.
  • Discrimination: Children are the most at-risk group in Bosnia. Discrimination against Romani children is creating a barrier to education. Primary education for Roma children is at 69%. However, other populations in the country have an overall positive amount of enrollment, which is 98%.
  • Undocumented Population: The population data of Bosnia does not factor in Romani people but estimates anywhere between 25,000 and 50,000 Roma living in Bosnia today. Due to the population data not recognizing them, a large number of Romani individuals are undocumented. As a result of being undocumented, they are unable to enjoy the full scope of citizenship or receive any governmental assistance, according to the European Roma Rights Centre.
  • Housing Issues: Romani poverty in Bosnia recently made headlines when Bosnian officials began to threaten the most impoverished Romani families. The Banlozi camp houses 46 Roma families who moved to Banlozi from both rural and urban neighborhoods. The families had to move due to discrimination and the inability to afford their homes. Romani individuals regularly cannot obtain loans as well. Consequently, this leaves them no option to buy a home of their own. Police regularly raid the camp and officials are beginning to demolish the buildings. The camp is without clean, running water and pests infest it. The families situated in these camps receive a low stipend from the government, a stipend that does not cover food, education or health care. The families do not receive other options for housing after the eviction.

The European Roma Rights Centre

Romani poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina has happened for a long time, with more publicized issues in bigger nations covering it up. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is a nonprofit coalition that activists, who sought independence and pride for Romani people, founded in the mid-1990s. The event that put them on the map was a landmark victory in a police brutality case involving a Romani family in Czechia. The family had a lease contract on flats in the city of Usti nad Labem. The police and municipal employees forcefully evicted them with no explanation. Additionally, the police proceeded to seize and destroy the lease contract. Police claimed that they made a declaration that they were going to terminate the contract and leave to Slovakia. However, there was no evidence of this declaration.

Since this victory, the ERRC has educated the population on the trials of the Romani people. Its mission is to advocate and to assist the Romani population across Europe. It encouraged changes in the laws and encouraged the involvement with five other NGO coalitions for joint advocacy. The biggest step that one can take in addressing the issue of poverty within the Romani population is donating to and volunteering for the ERRC.

The fight for independence in Bosnia will not occur without hardship but teaches a lesson on how to sustain a secure nation. Bosnia’s government is facing struggles against the European superpowers that surround it. However, it is not without fault for the treatment of the Romani people.

Raven Heyne
Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe. The country has been one of the center points of the Yugoslavian Wars that tore across the area in the 1990s. It was the location of countless atrocities, such as the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995. The impact of these events still exists across the country today, despite 25 years of improvements and advancements. Part of this impact was the reduction in life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is around 77 years. This is more than most of the other countries in the Balkans, surpassed only by Greece, Montenegro and Croatia. However, in the European Union, life expectancy is the average of 81 or the Balkan average of 77. All of the Balkan countries are above the world average of 72 years despite genocide and war afflicting them.
  2. Instability: The country’s average life expectancy was on a linear growth before the wars and peaked at 71.6 in 1987. However, the loss of life and general prosperity from the instability of late Yugoslavia followed by the violence of the wars and genocide caused a massive dip in this figure. In fact, its life expectancy did not return to prewar figures until 1995.
  3. Reduced Life Expectancy: Before the war, the population peaked at 4.5 million people in 1989. In contrast, up to an estimated 300,000 fatalities massively dented this figure. By 1996, a quarter of the pre-war population displaced while around 1.2 million fled the country in a mass migration. Additionally, high-income families generally have a higher life expectancy which links to the reason behind the life expectancy loss.
  4. Life Expectancy Growth: Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina has grown by 6.6 percent from 1996 until 2017. This is slower than the world growth of 8.7 percent in the same time frame. This is likely due to poor economic growth and countless health issues.
  5. Air Pollution: Large amounts of air pollution result in many premature deaths. It also reduces general life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina by at least 1.1 years overall. Poor control over energy generation pollution output has cost the people of the country 130,000 years of life overall in the last 10 years. This is due to poorer respiratory health and increased incidences of lung cancers. To combat this, cities and decisionmakers within the country are coordinating with an organization like the U.N. Environment. They will switch energy production from polluting sources such as old coal generators to renewables. For example, the project District Heating in Cities Initiative is attempting to replace the heating oil system of the city Banja Luka to biomass generators. This will cut emissions by 90 percent.
  6. Life Expectancy Disparities Between Genders: The differences in life expectancy between genders are significant. As men live an average of 74.6 years, while women live five years more on average at 79.5 years. This is likely caused by various social conditions such as the expectation for men to take on more dangerous jobs. In addition, suicide rates are disparately high in men compared to women.
  7. Death Rate: Bosnia has a very high death rate. It is the 39th highest in the world at 10 deaths for every 1,000 people. This is due to air pollution, destroyed infrastructure from the war and water shortages. Also, many areas of the country have poorly rebuilt electric networks and poor train lines or road systems. Due to this, reactive health care has suffered in many areas, making it impossible for people to get to hospitals. However, with investments and concentrated efforts, this has been changing for the better. As the country rebuilds train lines and improves roads, motorway fatalities have gone from dozens a year to simply two in 2014.
  8. The Poverty Rate: The poverty rate in the country is 2.2 percent, but lack of health does not contribute greatly to its poverty rate. This means many of those in poverty do not struggle with health care issues. This is due to the fact that the government provides health insurance to even the unemployed, reducing out-of-pocket costs for the country’s poor on these issues.
  9. Health Care Spending: The majority of health care spending in the country is government spending. Around 71 percent of all health care spending is public funding. Of the 29 percent private expenditures, nearly all of it is purchases of household health materials such as bandages and medicine. Meanwhile, the country spends 1 percent on other expenses, indicating that these private expenses are less likely to be costly affairs that may serve to hurt the financial stature of citizens.
  10. Preventative Care: Preventative care is minimal in the country as programs like education and advising programs, immunization programs, epidemiological monitoring and disease risk control and disaster response programs only make up 1.8 percent of total health care funding. This likely plays a large part in the death rate as preventative care is extremely important in ensuring long lifespans. However, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union have been working in tandem with NGO projects to boost immunizations in the country including World TB Day, Immunization Week, Anti-TB Week and World AIDS Day. Additionally, the aim is to build trust in vaccines amongst the general populace.

These 10 facts show how damaging the war has been on the general health and lifespan of the population. While the years since have seen improvements, they have not been enough to bring Bosnia and Herzegovina to par with the rest of the world. Damaged public infrastructure, lack of focus on preventative care and deteriorating environmental conditions are some of the primary reasons behind the slow increase of the country’s life expectancy.

– Neil Singh
Photo: Flickr

 

10 Facts ABout Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Public health outcomes and economic status both rely greatly on a nation’s sanitation infrastructure. Sanitation encompasses the regular, efficient and safe collection and disposal of waste, whatever its source. Improper procedures and insufficient waste management facilities have led to poor sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but recent efforts show promising improvements. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. The political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina divides waste management responsibilities among different levels of governance. Responsibility for environmental policy, including sanitation policy, lies with both the federal government and the two political entities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic Srpska, but not with the cantonal and municipal governments. The two entities and their constituent cantons formulate laws and regulations for waste management, while these two levels of government work share the responsibility of designing management strategies with municipal governments.
  2. At the federal level, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER) oversees and manages international initiatives and accords that involve the political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the enactment of the Law on Ministries and Other Bodies of Administration of BiH in March 2003, MoFTER’s role also includes ensuring that the political entities follow basic environmental standards. As a result, the political entities do not have absolute power when it comes to environmental policy, with MoFTER acting as a harmonizing and coordinating force.
  3. The country’s two political entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, both suffer from a severe lack of operable wastewater treatment plants. Only two of Republika Srpska’s 64 municipalities have treatment facilities. Though the country improved biological treatment processes in 2009, the quality of these methods declined the following year.
  4. In 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina produced approximately 1,243,889 tons of municipal waste. This quantity measures out to an estimated 354 kg per year and 0.97 kg each day. Landfills received 952,975 tons of waste that year, a 1 percent decline from 2015. Public solid waste transportation disposed of approximately 920,748 tons of waste in 2016, a 0.1 percent reduction from 2015. The vast majority of waste in the country came from markets, street cleaning and other public sources. Packaging waste made up only 1.9 percent of waste in 2016, and household waste only constituted another 3.6 percent. Recreational areas, such as gardens and parks, generated only 2.8 percent of waste. Mixed municipal waste made up all of the remaining 91.7 percent, more than 844,000 metric tons.
  5. Registered local landfills serve as the endpoint for the majority of publicly-collected waste, but rural areas with little access to public collection services discard their waste in the far-more-common illegal landfills which do not follow sanitation standards. There are only 43 registered landfills in Republika Srpska and 44 in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but nearly 590 known illegal landfills. In legal and illegal dumping alike, the separation of hazardous and non-hazardous materials rarely occurs, posing a significant problem for public health in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  6. The unsafe conditions in a residential landfill in the city of Mostar, in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, provoked protests in 2019. Although it has existed since the 1960s as a landfill for household waste, recently it has allowed companies to dump dangerous waste products and sewage treatment sludge. Locals deeply concerned by news that the waste might contain hazardous toxins called PCBs prompted Mostar authorities to initiate an investigation.
  7. Despite some legislative efforts to follow the EU’s environmental standards, garbage pollutes Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rivers. The civil war in the 1990s resulted in the neglect of the country’s waste management infrastructure. A scarcity of recycling facilities has led to trash islands that now clog the country’s rivers. Locals report that organizations remove an estimated 800,000 tons of trash from the Drina river alone every year.
  8. In 2018, public waste utility KJKP Rad announced the planned construction of a recycling facility for electronic and electrical waste in Sarajevo, the country’s capital. The facility will also accept the city’s solid waste, construction waste and even soil. A hall containing presses and conveyor belts will process the waste brought by Sarajevo locals. Though electrical and electronic waste collection companies already exist, KJKP Rad’s new facility will be the first in the country to recycle waste deposited on site.
  9. In October 2019, the Sarajevo Canton Assembly discussed the creation of a waste incinerator as a solution to the canton’s waste management issues. Though the facility’s construction cost approximately 122.8 million euros, the incineration of waste would not only improve sanitation but also efficiently generate energy for the city. This prospective facility would greatly relieve the burden on the Smiljevići regional waste management center and would be one more step toward improving Bosnia and Herzegovina’s waste management and sanitation.
  10. International attention is also being directed at sanitation problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An initiative to improve the country’s waste management infrastructure with support from the Swedish development agency SIDA and the World Bank began in 2016 and offers several strategies to improve the system. Proposed policies include the design of a more feasible data-reporting system, expanding the trash collection fleet, designing and implementing better organized and less expensive waste collection systems, ensuring greater stakeholder involvement in waste management initiatives, improved communication with citizens, implementation of environmental taxes and even tariff reform. With additional time and data, authorities hope that these strategies will improve sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since gaining independence in the 1990s, sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has remained a problem. Public health hazards that also threaten economic stability emerged from the neglect that comes with political upheaval. Nevertheless, efforts made to address current shortcomings, such as the construction of new recycling and incineration facilities, herald a brighter future for sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Care in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been slowly recovering from the conflict that took place in the country during the late 1990s. The war took a toll on the country economically, politically, socially and physically. On top of its high levels of poverty, the country is also becoming a victim of the aging population epidemic and elderly care in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a huge concern. The country is facing issues of a dip in fertility rate and an increase in the rate of the elderly people, leaving a large number of older population with a small population of working-age people to support them. This issue coming from the uneven age distribution grew due to a fall in birth rates, a decrease in population from deaths during the war years and an increase in life expectancy.

The Increase of Elderly Population

Currently, people over the age of 65 make up 17 percent of the total population. Moreover, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimated that the number of persons aged 65 and more than 65 will reach 30 percent of the population in 2060, comparative with the 15 percent it sat at in 2010. With a population of only 3.5 million, this is a daunting number.

The older population in Bosnia and Herzegovina is extremely vulnerable for many reasons. Some of the issues they face include low income and increased living expenses. Obtaining employment is difficult as well. Due to the high unemployment rate the country faces, many employers prefer younger workers. This means that many of the elderly face poverty and have been unemployed since before retirement age, leaving them with subsequently less to provide for themselves as they age.

The situation for elderly women is worse than it is for men, as women lose rights with the loss of a husband. They also face higher rates of poverty as they are usually unable to economically provide for themselves alone. The elderly are ailed by illnesses such as cardiovascular and malignant diseases, neurological and mental disorders like Alzheimer’s, as well as sensory and physical disabilities. Many of these diseases and the lack of care for them result in a higher rate of depression amongst the elderly.

The Exodus of Medical Workers

On top of all this, Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing an exodus of its medical workers. Many young doctors and medical professionals are leaving the country after their schooling is complete and migrating toward Germany and other Western countries because these countries offer better job opportunities and more competitive salaries. More than 10,000 nurses, doctors, caregivers have gone to Germany alone. Only about 6,000 doctors work in Bosnia, meaning for every six doctors, one works in Germany. Not only is this leading to a lack of medical professionals, but the country is also losing money as they put millions into medical training facilities that students use and then leave behind as they migrate their services.

Bosnia is being forced to send patients abroad for care, so in the last two years, the country has spent around $37 million on patients that were sent outwards. Not only is this epidemic draining the country’s money, leaving it with less available funding to put towards elderly care in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it also means there are not enough doctors to perform geriatric care. It’s a negative feedback loop that hinders the country’s ability to care for its citizens, especially the elderly ones.

The Solutions for the Problems

The growing number of the elderly population in combination with the exodus of medical workers leaves the country with many people suffering and few resources to help them. Thankfully though, Bosnia and Herzegovina has not turned a blind eye towards these issues and instead has begun to search for solutions. Members of the United Nations adopted the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing that aims to address the issues of aging in the 21st century. The plan focuses on three main aspects: older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age and ensuring enabling and supportive environments.

With support from the United Nations Population Fund, United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs and the Swiss Cooperation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country has developed its own strategies, inspired by the structure of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. It plans to improve social and health protections, promote activism and volunteerism in local communities, as well as inter-generational support. The country aims to improve access to public services, especially for those in rural areas and prevent violence, neglect and abuse against older persons. The execution of this initiative will require a great deal of money and resources, but the government is dedicated to the improvement of elderly care in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This plan of action shows that the government is making this issue a focal point in national policy and beginning to address the problems that will address the aging population. Elderly care in Bosnia and Herzegovina has a long way to go before the older population is secure and comfortable. With initiative from the government to care for the elderly, social attention will be turned towards this problem that will encourage the younger generation to aid the older and make room for various organizations to provide help and resources to the country’s older population.

– Mary Spindler
Photo: Flickr