Human Trafficking in Croatia
In 2017, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that almost 25 million cases of human trafficking existed across the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation, mostly among girls and women. Southeastern Europe, which includes countries such as Croatia, Albania and Bulgaria, has a high prevalence of trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation. In terms of human trafficking in Croatia, the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report by the U.S. Department of State ranks Croatia as a Tier 2 country, meaning “Croatia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”

The 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report

The government of Croatia created the Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM) to oversee the conduct of police authorities at the country’s borders and ensure that human rights are upheld at all times. The IMM “may help potential victims self-identify to authorities and reduce future opportunities for traffickers to exploit migrants and asylum-seekers,” the TIP 2022 report said.

However, Croatia had inadequate screening processes in place for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers. A few judges also required several testimonies from trafficking victims, leading to re-traumatization. Furthermore, the legal system charged some traffickers with less serious crimes.

Preventative Measures

The Croatian government has taken a series of steps to raise awareness of human trafficking and increase prevention measures.

  • Holding monthly virtual meetings to oversee the implementation of Croatia’s 2018-2021 national action plan (NAP) to combat trafficking.
  • Hosting awareness campaigns in high-risk areas and targeting at-risk groups.
  • Running an anti-trafficking hotline that received 678 phone calls, which led to six human trafficking investigations.
  • Croatia prompted labor inspectors to conduct inspections in several fields of work to ensure there are no legal infringements.
  • The law mandates that employers cannot charge recruitment fees to workers and implements fines in this regard.
  • Labor inspectors in Croatia are able to issue fines or impose criminal charges against employers who withhold salaries from workers.

The U.S. Department of State indicated that although efforts supporting the elimination of trafficking have increased, the government still falls short of meeting the minimum standards.

From the Perspective of Croatia’s Youth

The majority of the victims experiencing human trafficking in Croatia are women and children. Adolescents are susceptible to trafficking due to their vulnerabilities and lack of knowledge. A study led by Zora Raboteg-Šarić and others in 2007 utilized a survey to test the human trafficking knowledge of 950 students.

The results differed between different parts of the country. Students from larger towns had more knowledge of human trafficking than those from smaller towns. Slightly more than 50% of respondents believed that human trafficking in Croatia is not a major concern. Females and older students generally see human trafficking in Croatia as a more serious issue than males and younger students.

On the Right Track

Despite several setbacks in reducing human trafficking in Croatia, the Croatian government has made several efforts to improve. With commitments to raising awareness and supporting preventative efforts, the prevalence of human trafficking in Croatia can reduce.

– Madison Stivala
Photo: Unsplash

Elderly Poverty in Croatia
Inadequate pensions or non-existent pensions exacerbate elderly poverty in Croatia, infringing on the right to social security. With rising poverty rates among the elderly comes an increased risk of homelessness. Other factors also play a role, such as a rapidly aging population and the “feminization of the elderly population.”

The Rights of the Elderly in Croatia

Inadequate pensions further heighten elderly poverty in Croatia and infringe on the right to social security. According to the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute, “in April 2019, 457,365 retirees received a pension of less than HRK 2,000,” which amounts to about $281. Furthermore, “the average pension income in April 2019 was HRK 2,435.20,” which equates to about $342.

Higher life expectancy rates and decreased birth rates also contribute to an aging population, as in other countries. According to Croatia’s 2011 Census, the age group of 65 and older accounted for 17.7% of the population while in 2017 this percentage rose to 20.1%.

The feminization of the elderly age group means more women than men account for the elderly. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics of the Republic of Croatia (CBS), in 2017, the total number of women in the age group 65 or older stood at 59.66% compared to 40.34% for men. CBS projects that the elderly population aged 65 and older will rise to 27.6% by 2051.

Taking Action to Combat Elderly Poverty in Croatia

The Social Care Strategy for the Elderly in the Republic of Croatia for the Period 2017-2020 introduces a solution to non-existent pensions that amplify elderly poverty in Croatia. The nation’s tax system will fund a national pension, also known as a “basic pension.” This will cover “people who do not have the required social insurance record to retire but are over the legal pensionable age of 65” and do not receive income through other sources. To be eligible, individuals must meet certain requirements. In particular, the introduction of a basic pension aims to prioritize extremely impoverished Croatian women residing in rural locations.

A September 2019 study by the Ministry of Labour and the Pension System noted that in the year 2017, the at-risk poverty rate stood at 28.6% for people 65 and older in general. However, in terms of gender, the at-risk poverty rate for older women stood at 31.7% in comparison to 24.1% for older men.

The study concluded that at least 30,000 to 40,000 people aged 65 or older did not meet the minimum requirements to be eligible for a pension, with women accounting for most of these ineligible individuals. At the time, discussions were underway to ensure the pension system becomes more inclusive and less restrictive.

The introduction of the national pension in Croatia has ignited a public debate between liberal commentators and retirement associations. Retirement associations are in favor of the national pension whereas liberal commentators have concerns about “an increase in social transfers,” preferring that the government use the money for initiatives to create employment opportunities in Croatia. The national pension came into effect on January 1, 2021.

Looking Ahead

Despite limitations that the elderly face, such as pension ineligibility, “insufficiently accessible social services,” inadequate transportation infrastructure in rural regions, “long waiting lists for medical procedures and treatments” and the high costs of home aid services, Croatia is taking steps to address elderly poverty.

– Jacara Watkins
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19's Impact on Women and Poverty in CroatiaThe Republic of Croatia is a country located in Central and Southeast Europe, bordering Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Montenegro. Since proclaiming independence in 1991, the country introduced policies, programs and reforms to improve the quality of life of its citizens. But, COVID-19’s impact on women and poverty in Croatia has had serious consequences for the country.

COVID-19 and Unemployment

COVID-19 devastated many countries in a social, political and economic areas. However, Croatia was particularly hit hard. Starting in 2008, the country experienced a global financial crisis that had tremendous consequences. The European Commission Autumn Economic published a report estimating a recession of approximately 9.6% GDP in 2020, nearly 7% worse than the previous year. The main reasons behind the decrease are the fall in the tourism sector, domestic consumption and eradication of exports. In addition, registered unemployment skyrocketed by 21.3% during the first year of the pandemic.

Poverty in Croatia also increased after two earthquakes in 2020 negatively impacted Croatia’s pandemic and health crisis management. In response, the European Union deployed resources for the recovery of all the member countries, especially those who also suffered natural disasters during the pandemic.

Despite this bleak outlook, an analysis by The Ministry of Finance argues for an “optimistic growth of 5%” in 2021, provided Croatia sees an increase in domestic demand and continues receiving recovery funds from the European Union.

Women and Poverty in Croatia

According to a report by the World Bank, COVID-19 is not the only factor pushing women towards poverty. Undoubtedly, women are more likely to be employed in the informal, low-skilled and part-time jobs that were hardest hit by the pandemic. In many cases, these jobs disappeared and women suffered income loss. In addition, women who lost their jobs or work at home are less likely to be guaranteed social security and health coverage by the emergency packages created since the outbreak of COVID-19. For this reason, COVID-19’s impact on women and poverty in Croatia has been severe.

Both the European Union and the World Bank are aware of the many barriers women have to overcome. In response, they created several policies to find a solution. Some of the policies include providing equal access to the labor market for all women and removing any barriers to women’s employability.

The Government Response

Croatian authorities have become aware of the extreme need to reduce poverty in Croatia, especially for women. In 2019, authorities passed a National Action Plan for Women, Peace, and Security (NAP) to be carried out until 2023. This plan aims to prevent, protect and guarantee women’s rights in the country. The policy seeks to ensure that every woman has access to education, public health and active participation in the labor market.

The NAP prioritizes nine objectives to aid in prevention, participation, protection and implementation. Among these objectives are an increase in women’s role in decision-making processes and the promotion of women’s rights in conflict settings. The NAP works on the back of previous legislation that aimed to increase women’s participation in higher education. For example, women represented 59.9% of university graduates from 2015 to 2018. The same period saw a 4% increase in women in human resources and a 2% increase in female professors.

To support women’s employment, authorities introduced legislation to improve family life through maternity and parental benefits.  For example, the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy (MDFYSP) supports projects such as lengthening daycare operations, creating alternative education programs and providing children with meals. By supporting scholarships and child care, parents have more time to dedicate to their professional careers.

Hope for the Future

In conclusion, COVID-19 drastically affected Croatia in many ways. In particular, women suffered heavy damage from the health crisis. But, the international community and the Croatian authorities stepped in to design programs and resources for the eradication of poverty. Which, if the data is any indication, has promising results for the future of poverty in Croatia.

– Cristina Alverez
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Sustainability in Croatia
By way of investing in environmental sustainability in Croatia, hotels like Villa Dvor are serving Croatia’s poor beyond job creation. Some efforts include the creation of urban gardens as well as improved sanitation, among other factors of aid. As a result, hotels and NGOs are driving eco-friendly innovations that make for a healthier Croatia, from delivering affordable, healthy food to impoverished communities to preventing pollution within neighborhoods.

Urban Gardens for Hotels

As towns turn into tourist hotspots, hotels are moving toward increased environmental sustainability in Croatia. A nearly century-old castle-turned hotel in Omiš, Croatia, is now home to some of the newest advancements in environmental technology. Complete from water flow reducers to solar-powered thermal panels, the Villa Dvor has committed to an eco-friendly operation that is now benefitting the Adriatic coastline and beyond.

Upon its 2013 entrance to the European Union, the city of Zagreb, Croatia, announced a piece of legislation planning to reserve 2,000 land plots in 10 locations for urban gardening that encompasses several of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since then, the number of urban gardens in the city has steadily increased. The practice of urban gardens has become so successful a waitlist is needed specifically for these gardening-related plot allotments.

Facilitating sizable monthly savings on healthy food products makes urban gardens of particular benefit to the poor. Eight pounds of tomatoes at the supermarket cost about $20.48. However, when one sources them from a single home-grown tomato plant, that cost comes to just $4. According to Energy Cities, the European government network, disadvantaged groups are now some of the primary beneficiaries of the project and in turn, receive priority access.

Gardening and Nonprofit Organizations

In regards to education on seasonal and harvesting techniques, nonprofit organizations such as Udruga Oaza are here to help. The nonprofit educates children and youth on environmental sustainability in Croatia via school gardening programs. In 2017, it started the “Oasis for Kids” initiative. Mile Drača, head of Udruga Oaza, told The Borgen Project that while cooking workshops on veganism and vegetarianism have slowly, they surely incorporate healthier options into school lunches.

Irena Burba, the president of NGO Zelena Istra, emphasized urban gardening’s potential to assist the poor in her own district. “Our local community is also a tourist center and food prices are very high. Markets are becoming inaccessible to poor citizens. Even fish, an important source of protein, although we are at sea, is too expensive for many citizens because they are tourist prices,” explained Burba. “In times of crisis, communities need to find quick and efficient solutions, so urban gardens are certainly one of them.” With limited food availability due to the novel coronavirus, more citizens are vouching for the establishment of urban gardening areas.

Improved Sanitation

With urban gardens uniquely serving each community, they have the ability to promote environmental sustainability in Croatia via contribution to nationwide improvements in sanitation. Attracting some 21,000,000 tourists in 2019 alone, Croatia has experienced rapid development of its tourism industry and subsequent sanitation. Thus, industrial developments are also growing, such as hotel complexes which have increasingly aroused alarm as they continue to proliferate.

For instance, in the summer of 2019, protests regarding mayor Milan Bandić’s Urban Development Plan largely characterized Zagreb. It sought to double or triple the cost of waste collection. Additionally, Croatia’s easternmost region encountered issues surrounding illegal landfills, which nearly always tops the list of concerns, reported Burba.

Despite being the second most sought-after tourist destination, the Splitsko-dalmatinska counties remain home to the highest percentage of Croatia’s poor. When analyzing the effects of pollution in Croatia, the burgeoning tourist industry constantly hits low-income districts the hardest. This includes access to commercial fish. Overfishing and pollution have led to a substantial decrease in commercially important fish species like the Surmullet, further hurting the prospects of local fishermen who are a mainly self-employed group. They are two to three times more likely to experience “in-work poverty.”

Certifications for Eco-Friendly Hotels

Evaluating these statistics prepared another NGO, Sunce Dalmacija (“Sun Dalmatia”), for one of its most well-known projects yet: certifications for eco-friendly hotels. With the name “Dalmatia Green” diplomas, Sunce Dalmacija issues these certifications to incentivize hotel owners’ adoption of environmental sustainability in Croatia via techniques like energy-saving lights.

E.U. funds generally upheld eco-friendly practices. The Croatian Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection was able to chip away at its 2007-2015 Waste Management Plan, which saw the centralization of waste management in national facilities. Whether these practices undergo enforcement on the individual level is a different matter, Mile Drača reported. Although institutions like Hrvatske Vode have facilitated a stricter public oversight of environmental sustainability in Croatia, privatization of the coastline by large hotel chains remains a glaring concern to NGOs like Zelena Istra.

Moving Forward

Numerous challenges related to balancing tourism with environmental sustainability in Croatia exist. However, despite these obstacles, the E.U.’s newest member continues to make progress with its urban gardening and waste management initiatives. Moving forward, “broad, quality public debate,” together with transparency, has the power to develop quality solutions to this age-long struggle, said Burba.

She concluded that “Citizens are ready to unite and jointly respond to the problem in their local community through actions, petitions and protests. We, as an association, provide them with support and help with our knowledge and experience.”

– Petra Dujmic
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Croatia
Croatia is a country in Eastern Europe, part of the former Yugoslavia. It gained independence in 1991 after the Homeland War. As a result, the country struggles with poverty. It joined NATO in 2009 and the European Union (EU) in 2013, helping it advance as a country. In 2008, Croatia faced an abrupt economic slowdown that lasted into 2014, which plunged many into poverty. Now, poverty in Croatia is one of the nation’s most significant issues.

Croatia’s Economy

Croatia has high poverty rates. In 2015, an estimated 19.5% of the population fell below the poverty line. Further, 15% of people could not afford basic necessities, such as food, shelter and water. Poverty in Croatia increased when the nation separated from Yugoslavia during the Homeland War, changing from a communist to a free-market country.

Unemployment rates in Croatia are also high. The average unemployment rate is 12.4% (2017 estimate), which ranks Croatia 164th in the world for unemployment rates. For youth, the unemployment rate is 23.7%. This is largely due to a lack of qualifications for jobs. Skilled professionals have moved to work elsewhere in the EU and those remaining do not have the qualifications for the jobs that need filling.

Living in Poverty

Poverty is influenced by geography due to uneven developments throughout different regions. Small towns and other rural areas in the east and southeast, primarily near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, are the most impoverished areas in Croatia. There is a 5.9% poverty rate in cities while small towns and rural areas note poverty rates of up to 34.3%.

Similar to the discrepancy between urban and rural areas is the disparity between the wealthy and the impoverished. The previous government did not allow such imbalances to occur. However, those in government positions received favored treatment. As Croatia recovered from the war in its new free-market system, the status of those previously disadvantaged worsened.

After Croatia became independent, the wealthy received advantages while the impoverished endured disadvantages. This created a large gap between the impoverished and the wealthy. Estimates from 2015 indicate that the most impoverished 10% of households in Croatia earn only 2.7% of all income while the wealthiest 10% earned 23%.

Some groups are more likely to live in poverty than others. Older people, single-person households and single-parent households, large families of four or more people, children lacking parental care, people with lower education, war veterans, victims of war and their families, displaced people and ethnic minorities are most likely to live in poverty in Croatia.

Additionally, retired people are also more likely to live in poverty. Retired people account for one-fifth of Croatia’s population. As a result, pension systems are becoming overburdened and people on pensions do not receive enough money to live. Those on pension receive less than 50% of the average Croatian salary.

Working Toward a Better Future

Croatia is working on alleviating poverty. Croatia is participating in the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy. The strategy aims to create sustainable and inclusive growth in the economy and employment while also reducing poverty and improving education. Because of regional disparities, Croatia is implementing a regional-based version of this strategy.

As a result, Croatia’s employment rate has improved from 60.6% of the population to 66.7% in the last five years. This figure even includes those who choose not to work. Also, the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion has reduced from 29.1% of the population to 23.3%.

After its economic slowdown in 2008, Croatia struggled with an increase in poverty. While it has the highest poverty rate in its region, Croatia is working to address this issue. The country strives to decrease the gap between rural and urban areas as well as the divide between different social groups.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

Facing Energy Poverty
What if one could help solve two problems with just one solution? Well, Croatia has managed to do just that with the implementation of a new policy. Croatia, a country in southeastern Europe, launched an ambitious new initiative on September 1, 2020. The goal of this initiative is to help alleviate those who are facing energy poverty and mitigate the environmental crisis. Croatia’s Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency allocated 203 million Kuna to renovate the energy facilities in people’s homes, specifically renewable energy sources. Houses that families own account for more than half of all households in Croatia and consume around 40% of energy in the country. Here is some information about energy poverty in Croatia and efforts to alleviate it.

Homes in Croatia

Many family-owned properties underwent construction in the late 1980s and are not energy efficient. These homes consume around 70% of the energy related to utilities. Croatia believes that these homes’ energy consumption can become closer to approximately 40%. Croatians facing energy poverty will have all the funding necessary to exit it through the government. In fact, the Croatian government has allocated 32 million kunas in the 203 million kuna budget for Croatians facing energy poverty.

The Issue of Energy Poverty in Croatia

Currently, many Croatians are victims of energy poverty. Back in 2018, 17.5% of Croatians were not able to afford their utility bill. In comparison, only around 6.6% of people in the European Union faced this challenge. The issue of energy poverty can seriously stress a family’s budget, especially as Croatians facing energy poverty are more likely to be in poverty.

The numbers are even more drastic in “social housing,” where about one-third of the people in social housing owe money for their utility bills. High utility bills are because of Croatia’s chilly climate, which means families will want to spend more money on heating to ensure their homes are comfortable in the winter. Thus, Croatians pay a significantly higher amount for the same energy. This forces many families into energy poverty. The poorest one-fifth of Croatians spend about 12% of their earnings on energy-related bills, whereas the poorest one-fifth spend only about 7% in the European Union.

Eradicating Energy Poverty in Croatia

Croatia’s new energy initiative will work to lift people out of energy poverty. However, the policy would also have incredible environmental benefits. An integral part of the plan will replace current energy facilities with renewable options. As a result, Croatia will be actively working to reduce the adverse effects of changing weather. Renewable energy is great for the environment because it emits less toxic material into the air like carbon pollution. Natural gas emits around 0.6 to 2 pounds of carbon. In comparison, popular forms of renewable energy like wind emit at most 0.04 pounds, and solar emits only 0.07 to 0.2 pounds of carbon.

Croatia’s plan would even have some economic benefits. By investing in renewable energy, Croatia is opening up a new sector of the economy by creating more jobs for Croatians. Many Croatians will benefit from the government’s new initiative, allowing for a better livelihood for all.

Overall, Croatia’s new initiative demonstrates how innovative solutions can help make strides in many different sectors. It can also help improve thousands of lives. Its new policy could help inspire other countries to take similar strides to alleviate energy poverty and aid in helping the environment at the same time.

– Anushka Somani
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Croatia
Croatia is a southern European country on the coastlines of the Adriatic Sea and to the east of Italy. From 2012-2020, Croatia created a National Health Care Strategy policy to reform healthcare and close the gap on the inequalities that its citizens faced. The policy covered standardization, availability, connection and improving overall care. The country just gained and declared independence in 1992, but healthcare in Croatia has developed quickly and ranked highly. Here are five reasons why healthcare in Croatia is so commendable.

5 Reasons Healthcare in Croatia is Commendable

  1. Croatia provides healthcare to nationals and longterm visitors. The state provides access to healthcare in Croatia and everyone pays into what the country calls HZZO. HZZO is a mandatory country-wide health insurance system. Funding comes from two fronts that cover general healthcare. Payments to HZZO are calculated based on yearly income and are paid monthly by an individual or by a family through the employers. The Ministry of Health of Croatia also budgets the system. Visitors who stay three months or more must register and contribute to the health insurance plan.
  2. Croatia grants low cost, high-quality medical care. With Croatian government assistance and affordable living, physicians can offer a high standard of care. The quality of services provided at a lower rate has attracted many foreigners seeking medical treatment to travel to Croatia for those procedures. Competitively, reports have stated that renowned medical care costs 70% less than other leading countries. Former famous visitors for healthcare in Croatia include Russian Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov and numerous athletes.
  3. Healthcare is available to everyone. As residents pay for mandatory health insurance, there are options to get supplemental health insurance for extra care. Both the Ministry of Health and local town or city governance owns Croatia’s hospitals. Private care is optional but links to existing medical establishments. Issues with lack of insurance or care are not prevalent as the state covers those unable to pay into the insurance.
  4. Polyclinics exist throughout Croatia. Under the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT), healthcare in Croatia meets international standards, reporting sufficiently stocked medical hospitals throughout the country. Pharmacies, clinics and even dental have emerged in every town, with rural areas having similar access.
  5. Croatia has exhibited state of the art medical research. Croatia has shown advances in medical research in both its past and present. In the 1980s, its pharmaceutical industry developed drugs like the antibiotic Azithromycin, which people in the country commonly used. In recent headlines, a new incision-less Gamma Knife emerged in the University Hospital Center Zagreb for radiation therapy on brain aberrations like tumors. Croatia also implemented new technologies in dentistry, while other countries are behind. Paying into a national healthcare system has its advantages, as Croatia has its citizens pay by their ability and receiving commendable levels of care based on specialized needs. As a leader for new medical technologies and devices, healthcare in Croatia has a record of excelling, even at international standards.

Tick-borne Encephalitis

Northeastern parts of Croatia contain tick-borne encephalitis or TBE, which is prevalent from March through November. This illness comes of Ixodes ticks, which transmit the disease. Humans will show symptoms within one to two weeks, with flu-like reactions, meningitis and brain swelling in the first phase. The second phase involves injury to the central nervous system resulting in seizures, paralysis and many other neurological complications.

Vaccines and boosters for both adults and children are available, as the TBE is endemic to Croatia. Prevention information and availability have become key to dropping reported numbers for annual reported cases. Between 1999 and 2009, Croatia had up to 44 reported annual cases, while that number dropped to 20 from 2006-2011.

Poverty and Healthcare

Even with advancements in healthcare in Croatia, there is poverty, social exclusion and large disparities among citizens. Poverty areas affect citizens with different socioeconomic statuses, located east and southeast of the country which have been primarily affected form the 1990 Homeland War. To change the poverty affected and at-risk communities, Croatia has agreed to the Europe 2020 strategy to curtail inadequacies that its citizens face.

All permanent residents pay into the Croatian health insurance fund. Those who are unable to pay can still receive healthcare if they are do not have employment, are students or are asylum seekers.

Croatia has shown how government policies can go a long way when agendas receive support from both the public and its leaders. Healthcare in Croatia may serve as a role model for all others to follow suit in more ways than one.

– Loan Tran
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in CroatiaHunger in Croatia has been a historical plague starting in 1917 when World War I set the country to a two-year famine. The struggle continued through the 2008 recession that increased poverty and unemployment rates by 8%. As in many contexts, Croatia’s economic hardship left many families with insecure food sources, with children being the most vulnerable to malnutrition and stunting. Consequently, in UNICEF’s 2014 report “Children of Recession,” the number of Croatian children living in poverty or at the brink of poverty was at an alarming level.

Fighting Hunger in Croatia by Addressing Poverty

Due to the correlation between poverty and hunger, the Minister of Social Welfare Milanka Opacic launched an initiative in 2015 to combat issues of hunger in Croatia. Part of this initiative included providing free school lunches to all children. As a result of this initiative, the Global Hunger Index in 2015 reported that Croatia, alongside 17 other countries, had reduced the number of people with insecure food sources by half. Furthermore, in 2016, the Global Hunger Index ranked Croatia as being of low concern for hunger.

The Link Between Hunger in Croatia and Agriculture

However, the problem of hunger in Croatia is not solely caused by poverty. Croatia is a country heavily dependent on food imports. Despite the fact that Croatia has quality agricultural land, plenty of water as well and a diverse climate and landscape, it is unable to produce enough food for the consumption needs of citizens. Based on its resources, Croatia should be a major exporter of agricultural goods; instead, Croatia imports 3.5 billion euros worth of food. One main cause of insufficient agriculture production in Croatia is inadequate and ineffective management of land. Due to this mismanagement, Croatian agricultural estates remain small, fragmented, underdeveloped and ultimately unproductive. Croatia suffers from agricultural stunting as a result of depopulated rural areas, a poor market value chain and outdated technology.

These issues will perpetually tie Croatia to food imports and fundamentally prevent the nation from being agriculturally independent. From an economic or trade perspective, this import dependence is not a problem. Every country in the world imports goods that it cannot produce domestically. However, in the era of COVID-19, heavy reliance on imports raises concerns; especially when the import is something as important and life-sustaining as food.

Steps Towards a Secure Croatia

While initiatives combating hunger in Croatia have made great domestic progress through increasing access to impoverished communities, there is still work to do. Experts call on Croatia to extend their hunger policies and focus on investing in domestic agricultural production. Croatia has already proven to be a country prone to hunger and it simply cannot afford to be self-sufficient in the provision of food in order to survive potential events like security threats, natural disasters or resource depletion.

Croatia has indisputably improved remarkably in regards to hunger since the 2008 recession. However, there is still a long way to go. This work requires funding, research and dedication; if successful, these efforts will result in an agriculturally independent and secure Croatia.

Lily Jones
Photo: Flickr

Health tourism in CroatiaWith over 1,000 islands and 3,600 miles of coastline, Croatia is the perfect tourist getaway. After facing devastating wars, Croatia has turned to tourism to boost its economy. Croatia’s beaches and national parks have become notable tourist attractions. In fact, 19.6% of the country’s GDP depends on tourism. The combination of its magnificent landscape and suitable healthcare has resulted in the emergence of a new type of travel in the Balkans: health tourism in Croatia.

Poverty in Croatia

The Yugoslav Wars resulted in freedom for the former states of the Yugoslavia Republic; Croatia gained its independence in 1991. The war affected the regions along the country’s borders of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Unable to recover from the war, these regions became highly impoverished. 

In 2013 Croatia joined the European Union. While the EU typically has 8% unemployment, Croatia’s unemployment rates are much higher, reaching 15.4%. The cost of living in Croatia is higher than in other Eastern European countries, making it more difficult for those in poverty to afford what they need. To provide relief, the country has implemented its “Strategy for Combating Poverty and Social Inclusion in the Republic of Croatia.” This plan’s purpose is to improve the condition of vulnerable groups and help those that are socially excluded by offering more opportunity.

Health Tourism in Croatia

As Europeans grow frustrated with healthcare in their home countries, they travel to other countries to access medical care. This innovative and growing trend has promoted the rise of health tourism in Croatia. Market Research Future (MRFR) projects that the global medical tourism market will grow 21.4% a year for the next five years. The reasons health tourism has grown in Croatia include:

  • The health care system appeals to patients as it is both affordable and reputable. Obtaining surgeries in Croatia often costs less compared to receiving that same treatment in visitors’ home countries. Additionally, EU citizens can use their EU health insurance in Croatia.
  • The use of the internet and social media encourages travelers to visit attractive destinations like Croatia. Websites promote healthcare options while emphasizing the popular vacation spots in the area.
  • Technological advancements continue in the health care system. The quality of medical specialties in Croatia constantly progresses and ensures excellence.

The main concentration of health tourism in Croatia involves medical surgeries and wellness. Croatia specializes in popular medical procedures including plastic surgery, orthopedics and dentistry. Spa tourism encourages travelers to relax in the therapeutic resort town of Opatija. Tourists can explore the country while getting procedures all in one trip.

Future of Health Tourism

The same conflict that led to Croatia’s independence also brought about poverty and unemployment that continues to impact Croatians. In order to improve its economy, Croatia focused on tourism and created a strategy to combat poverty. Now, the country’s beautiful coastlines have become trendy destinations and health tourism in Croatia captivates vacationers. Improvements in healthcare have resulted in more Europeans flocking to Croatia for medical surgeries and therapeutic resort towns. Almost 10% of tourists visit Croatia for its healthcare, and that number is expected to grow. As the demand for health tourism in Croatia increases, this new industry can generate future economic benefits.

– Hannah Nelson
Photo: Pixabay

Homelessness in Croatia
Croatia has become a massive tourist destination in recent years. Whether visitors are in search of relaxing beaches, national parks or Games of Thrones filming locations, the small Balkan nation offers a myriad of attractions. In the midst of a mass exodus of tourists due to the COVID-19 outbreak though, a 5.3-magnitude earthquake struck the country in March and damaged thousands of buildings, injured dozens and killed one person. Immediately following the disaster, the government drafted a vague plan for reconstruction. Josip Atalic, an associate professor at Zagreb’s Faculty of Civil Engineering, anticipates it will take years for the affected infrastructure to be completely repaired.

Thousands of buildings, from schools and hospitals to apartments and homes, have been deemed unusable. Unfortunately, Croatia doesn’t have the resources to handle more displaced persons. Here are four facts about homelessness in Croatia.

4 Facts About Homelessness in Croatia:

  1. “Croatia ranks among the most vulnerable countries of the European Union in terms of poverty rates,” according to the nation’s Ministry of Demographics, Family, Youth and Social Policy. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of citizens receiving unemployment benefits decreased from almost 80,000 to about 35,000. Yet, the rate of people at risk of poverty has consistently hovered around 20% since 2013. Poverty, unemployment and homelessness intersect at different points. With so much of the population at risk of poverty, the risk of homelessness grows all the more.

  2. The official number of homeless people in Croatia depends on a very particular definition of homelessness. As a result, the statistic is lower than it might be if other organizations were to calculate the quantity. European Typology of Homelessness and Housing Exclusion, or ETHOS, has six categories that encompass varying degrees of homelessness. These degrees range from people living in public spaces to temporary residence due to a lack of personal housing accommodations. The Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy found only 364 homeless persons in Croatia in 2018. This number is quantified by the definition in the Social Welfare Act of 2013, which determines a homeless person as one “who has no place to live, resides in a public or other place not intended for housing and has no means to settle the need for housing.” The government only counts most extreme cases of homelessness, in which a person is without a roof over his or her head. The total does not include the number of individuals who are without permanent residences and occupy beds in shelters, refuge accommodations, healthcare institutions or penal institutions. If the ministry were to include all ETHOS categories, there could be up to 10,000 homeless people in Croatia.

  3. Croatia has 14 homeless shelters in the entire country, with enough space to house 383 people. About a fourth of the nation’s population lives around Zagreb; as a result, most of Croatia’s homeless occupy the nation’s capital. There is only one shelter in Zagreb, and just recently it nearly closed as its lease with the city government came to an end. Without adequate resources to combat homelessness in Croatia, those afflicted have fewer chances to escape it.

  4. Aside from these aforementioned statistics, there is little research on poverty and homelessness in Croatia. In the last few decades, however, a number of organizations dedicated to homeless and vulnerable populationsPragma, Caritas and the Croatian Anti-Poverty Network, to name a fewhave materialized in Croatia. Most of these organizations are connected to the Croatian Network for Homelessness. Just a few years ago, a formerly homeless man began giving “anti-tours” of Zagreb; this was done in partnership with a social impact agency and the humanitarian association Fajter. He educates tour groups on the existence of homelessness in Zagreb, which is hardly noticeable due to strict vagrancy laws.

In the wake of two disasters that have impaired the infrastructure and the health of Croatia, it’s unclear how the country’s homeless population is faring. Nonetheless, between anti-tours and the growing number of aiding organizations, homelessness in Croatia is becoming more central to humanitarian efforts. Hopefully, in a few years, further research about the country’s vulnerable populations will be conducted. This would make more information available, and thus lead to more effective policies needed to address homelessness in Croatia.

Mary Wilkie
Photo: Wikimedia Commons