10 Facts About Croatia Refugees
Croatia is a top tourist destination with its long, beautiful coastline along the Adriatic Sea, and tourism accounts for 17 percent of country’s annual gross national product. However, over the past 25 years, the country has been in headlines for something quite different. The Balkan Wars of the 1990s saw a large number of Croatian refugees leaving the country. In addition, the Syrian refugee crisis of the last few years has caused an influx of foreign refugees into Croatia. Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees began arriving in Croatia in 2015. Below are 10 facts about Croatian refugees.

  1. Croatia declared its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. This resulted in a war that lasted until 1995. During this time, 900,000 Croats were displaced both inside and outside the country.
  2. It is estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 ethnic Serbs left Croatia in August 1995 after a military conflict. In turn, 130,000 ethnic Croats left Bosnia and Herzegovina for Croatia.
  3. War broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. During the war, an estimated 403,000 refugees arrived in Croatia as a result of the conflict.
  4. The Croatian refugees who left the country began returning in 1996. By 2012, more than 132,600 of the Croatian refugees of Serbian descent had returned to Croatia. One of the main issues impeding their return was housing. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has worked to help alleviate this problem as well as the legal, social and technical issues that arise for returning refugees.
  5. In 2015, Croatia faced new refugee challenges, when a huge wave of Syrian refugees arrived en route to northern Europe. During this influx, more than 800,000 people passed through Croatia.
  6. During this period, there were two refugee camps set up in Croatia, and the government provided free transport for refugees to Hungary and later to Slovenia.
  7. On September 16, 2015, Croatia became one of the main transit countries when Hungary closed its borders to refugees. Since then, the country sees approximately 12,000 entries each day.
  8. The Balkan refugee route was effectively closed in March of 2016, when Slovenia closed its borders to migrants, and Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia quickly followed suit. The aim was to end the flow of migrants to Europe through the Balkans.
  9. As a member of the European Union, Croatia has an obligation to abide by a plan to relocate refugees from Greece and Italy, countries where the most refugees have arrived.
  10. Croatia has agreed to receive a total of 1,600 asylum-seekers by the end of 2017 as agreed with the EU resettlement scheme.

These 10 facts about Croatian refugees demonstrate that the refugees that left Croatia in the 1990s as well as those that have entered the country since 2015 have brought Croatia into world headlines for the last quarter of a century.

Jene Cates

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Croatia is one of the smaller countries in the world with just over four million people currently living in the country. The average life expectancy in Croatia is 77 years, which is higher than the average life expectancy worldwide, which is 71 years according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Females are expected to live longer than the males in Croatia. The most major diseases in Croatia mostly contribute to deaths from an older age group.

The top two causes of deaths in Croatia pertain to the heart and the vascular system. Topping the list is ischemic heart disease (IHD), which caused 12 percent more deaths in 2015 than in 2005. IHD is the leading cause of premature death in Croatia, and it has held this spot for more than 10 years. In this way, IHD has become quite a large problem for Croatia. The second-highest cause of death in the country is cerebrovascular disease; it has maintained the second spot for years as well.

Cancer holds the next few spots on the list of top diseases in Croatia. One disease which has risen in prevalence in Croatia is Alzheimer’s disease, which kills 45 percent more people in the country than it did in 2005. Alzheimer’s has affected many people around the world, and it is now on the rise in Croatia as well. It has risen one spot on the list from fifth place to fourth place in the span of 10 years.

Rounding out the list of top diseases in Croatia is COPD, hypertensive heart disease, falls, diabetes and breast cancer. Falls are the only entry on the list that is an injury; the rest are non-communicable diseases. The most prevalent communicable disease on the list is the 14th entry: lower respiratory infections.

Risk factors in Croatia that can cause some of these diseases to begin or persist include dietary risks, high blood pressure and tobacco, alcohol and drug use, among others. These are major risks behind the list of premature and preventable deaths in Croatia.

When traveling to Croatia, there are many vaccines that should be up-to-date or received for the first time weeks in advance of the trip. These vaccines include those for hepatitis A and B, as well as the rabies vaccine.

The most prevalent diseases in Croatia mirror some of the major diseases found in other countries around the world. Cancers and heart diseases are some of the highest causes of death and disease worldwide. This is a trend that needs to be taken seriously, along with every other disease on the list.

Brendin Axtman

Photo: Flickr

With an evolving population of 4.3 million people, Croatia is known for its rich historical culture, beautiful landscapes and pleasant climate. As a result, Croatia has become a booming tourist destination. Although widely known for its attractions, many transmittable diseases in Croatia threaten the health of its population and the country’s tourism industry.

Here are just a few of the threatening diseases in Croatia:

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever is a systemic infection, usually contracted through contaminated food or water. The symptoms include prolonged fever, nausea, headache, loss of appetite and constipation or diarrhea. It thrives in areas with poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water. According to a study published in 2014, approximately 21 million cases and 222,000 typhoid-related deaths occur annually worldwide, demonstrating the real threat that this communicable infection poses.

Currently, there are two typhoid vaccines that are recommended for use, including an injectable polysaccharide vaccine (Vi-PS vaccine) for persons of age two years and above. The other vaccine is a live attenuated oral Ty21a vaccine for those over five years of age.


Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted through mosquito bites. The symptoms include fever, headache, chills and vomiting, which usually appear within 7 days or more (usually 10-15 days). If not treated quickly, this can progress to severe illness, often leading to death.

Malaria is preventable and curable, easing the burden in many countries around the world. Currently, there are no licensed vaccines against malaria or any other human parasite. However, with insecticide-treated mosquito nets and antimalarial drugs, malaria can be prevented.

Hepatitis B

As a viral infection that attacks the liver, hepatitis B is a virus that is transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person. Every year, more than 686 million people die due to the complications of hepatitis B, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.

A vaccine against hepatitis B is available in preventing the infection and the development of chronic disease and liver cancer complications. However, the treatment does not cure all cases of hepatitis B. By only suppressing the replication of the virus, lifelong treatments are necessary in order to fight against the complications of the virus.

Although the diseases in Croatia are constantly threatening the health of the country’s population and its tourism industry, many are continuing to develop innovative methods to help bring vaccinations and preventable solutions to Croatia, potentially saving millions of lives.

Brandon Johnson

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Croatia
Roughly one-fifth of the 4.2 million people in Croatia are currently living in poverty. As the country comes off of the heels of one of the worst financial crises in its history, the actions made now are vital to the reduction of poverty in Croatia for the immediate and long-term future.

As a member of the European Union (EU), Croatia is participating in the Europe 2020 strategy, which is directed at reducing the number of people living in conditions that are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Since the implementation of this strategy, the European Commission has given yearly, country-specific recommendations to Croatia, to ensure that progress to eliminating poverty in Croatia continues.

Protections for Vulnerable Groups

Croatia has taken internal steps to address these concerns as well. For example, the Strategy for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion in the Republic of Croatia 2014-2020, which recognizes population groups that are vulnerable to poverty, social exclusion and discrimination. These vulnerable groups include the elderly, single households, one-parent families, families with multiple children, children without adequate care, uneducated people, people with disabilities, war veterans, victims of war and ethnic minorities. The Ministry of Regional Development and European Union Funds, the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth and the Central Bureau of Statistics are working to acquire more evidence of how poverty is distributed geographically in Croatia.

This evidence-based information is then being utilized by the government of Croatia in the design of policies and fund allocations to promote inclusion and regional development.

While steps have been made towards poverty reduction, some, like Nino Zganec of the Croatian Anti-Poverty Network, believe that the Croatian government needs to do more. Zganec is calling for more social welfare laws and states that “social welfare should not be perceived as spending but as an investment in human capital.”

Croatia and the EU will, therefore, need to continue the progressive plans to reduce the amount of poverty in Croatia from the near 20 percent of the population under the line in 2016. It is crucial for the wellbeing of the citizens who are at risk of exclusion.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

On February 22, 2017, citizens gathered at Zagreb’s Croatian National Theater in celebration. That day marked the 100th year anniversary of Friar Didak Buntic’s efforts to save children in Croatia, Herzegovina and Bosnia from the famine plaguing the last two years of World War I. Through his efforts between 1917 and 1919, an estimated 29,000 famished children were moved to more affluent areas in the North. They were greeted by organized shelters led by Buntic and other prominent citizens. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic lauded the humanitarian’s work at the anniversary celebration.

Since then, and especially in the past few years, Croatia has made significant gains when it comes to hunger. The Global Hunger Index in 2015 cited that, along with 17 other countries, Croatia had reduced the number of people with lack of access to food supplies by 50 percent. This improvement came on the heels of the damaging 2008 recession, which caused the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to report in 2014 that Croatia’s children were among the hardest hit — ranking 38th in the world as those years saw an 11.8 percent rise in impoverished children.

Regardless of recent improvement, UNICEF’s findings in 2014 caused political turmoil between Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and Mladen Levak, a member of the Croatian parliament for the Labour party. Milanovic insisted that the findings were false and tinted with populist bias. Levak offers a rebuttal, “….Yes, there is food but not for all — for some opportunities pile up while for others poverty piles up.”

This sentiment reflects the fact that poverty and hunger in Croatia mimic that of other developed countries. How one is poor, and not just the fact that one is, does matter. Poverty can be felt in different ways, especially between the 21 different counties across Croatia — all of whom experience poverty slightly differently. The difference lies between poverty depth and poverty severity — how far away households are from the poverty line versus the income inequality between the poor classes.

The 2016 Global Hunger Index for Croatia is rated as a low score of less than five. There is still work to be done, as there is in every nation globally, but hunger in Croatia has improved markedly from the damaging 2008 recession. It seems hopeful that in another 100 years the people of Croatia will be able to celebrate Friar Didak Buntic’s work once again.

Tammy Hineline



Photo: Flickr