USAID Programs in KosovoKosovo, officially known as the Republic of Kosovo, is a small country situated in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe. Since Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 2008, the United States has maintained a close relationship with the relatively young country, providing everything from military aid to economic assistance and COVID-19 relief. The U.S.’s main foreign aid avenue, USAID, has played a vital role in this relationship between the two countries and their joint mission of reform, modernization and transition. With roughly 23% of Kosovo’s population living in poverty and an estimated unemployment rate of 26% as of 2021, pursuing such endeavors to support goals like self-sustainability, job creation and economic prosperity are crucial to the country’s development. There are several notable USAID programs in Kosovo currently underway.

2022 Development Funding and COVID-19 Relief

In March 2022, the United States announced $31.9 million in assistance to Kosovo. Per a USAID press release, the funding will work to “[promote] Kosovo-led development solutions to economic and democratic challenges.” This aligns with USAID’s goal of Kosovan self-reliance outlined in the USAID-Kosovo Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) — a plan which acts as a developmental roadmap for the country through 2025.

Earlier, in January 2022, the U.S. announced $3 million in additional COVID-19 assistance for Kosovo, building on the $5.1 million in aid given over the course of the pandemic. Along with this financial aid, USAID has also worked to deliver personal hygiene kits, ventilators, testing equipment and nearly 538,200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Kosovo. As of 23 June 2022, Kosovo has had a total of 228,563 COVID-19 cases resulting in 3,130 deaths.

Energy Sustainability Activity

Launched in February 2021 and expected to run through February 2026, the USAID Energy Sustainability Activity aims to enhance Kosovo’s energy security by building “sustainable power networks,” increasing energy capacity for local institutions and accelerating investment in Kosovan renewable energy infrastructure.

“The next five years for Kosovo are critical for establishing a robust, reliable and regionally integrated power system in line with Energy Community (EnC) standards — an integral part of bolstering the country’s economic growth and increasing opportunities for its citizens,” a USAID fact sheet explains.

As one of the most impoverished countries in Europe, with a per capita GDP of $4,291 as of December 2020, building a sustainable, reliable energy infrastructure is absolutely crucial for Kosovo as the country’s ongoing energy crisis acts as a direct obstacle to its economic development. “Without reliable, affordable electricity, Kosovo’s businesses cannot invest, operate and create jobs; hospitals and schools cannot function fully or safely with frequent power cuts… Basic services that people in developed countries take for granted cannot be offered.” says the World Bank.

Commercial Justice Activity

Operating as a larger program containing a plethora of smaller programs, the Commercial Justice Activity is an initiative by USAID and various Kosovan judicial institutions to work on judicial reforms that have the potential to promote “investment, economic growth and job creation” in Kosovo.

This program has already made a positive impact on the Kosovan justice system. The Kosovan government adopted a draft Law on Commercial Court in August 2021, which proposed the establishment of a standalone court for business and investment disputes in order to streamline commercial justice. Kosovo’s Assembly unanimously passed the law in February 2022.

Other aspects of this program include improved training for judges and court staff as well as initiatives to increase court accountability and efficiency.

Kosovo Youth Dialogue

USAID established the Kosovo Youth Dialogue in August 2021 for the primary purpose of empowering and educating the Kosovan youth population. The ongoing 30-month project works to encourage dialogue and education among the youth population regarding the country’s past and the various ethnic groups belonging to the region.

Specifically, the program aims to “[empower] young people to actively participate in the dealing with the past and reconciliation process in Kosovo by encouraging inter-ethnic communication, interaction and cooperation, addressing common interests, building confidence and promoting mutual understanding and positive attitudes.” The program includes youth exchange programs, grants, educational programs and partnerships with various Kosovan non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The Future

As one of the most impoverished countries in Europe, and considering its lack of recognition as a sovereign state by many, Kosovo has a long road ahead in achieving its sought-after self-sustainability. However, with its continued steadfast focus on policy reform, modernization and stability, the nation’s future is certainly bright.

With the work of these USAID programs in Kosovo and that of other like-minded organizations such as UNICEF, the World Bank and the European Commission, Kosovo can take much greater steps toward achieving its desired future of sustainability and improving the social and economic well-being of citizens.

– Riley Wooldridge
Photo: Pixabay

Human trafficking in Kosovo
Human trafficking in Kosovo has been a focal point of the fight against human trafficking. The main victims within the nation are young girls who traffickers force to work in the sex trade. While this problem still persists, the government is making active efforts to lessen the prevalence of the issue.

The Causes of Kosovo’s Trafficking Epidemic

Ethnic tensions between Serbians and Albanians residing in Kosovo have worked to increase human trafficking in the nation. Speculations determined that peace-keeping forces placed in Kosovo to prevent the two groups from clashing led to a large demand for sex workers. Trafficking rose to meet the demand. Before Kosovo’s official declaration of independence in 2008, young girls, who were trafficking victims, came from neighboring countries. However, independence meant more secure borders. As a result, the traffickers looked inward, targeting young Kosovan girls.

Human trafficking in Kosovo is undoubtedly a profitable business. It is estimated that a female forced into sexual exploitation in Western Europe can create around $67,200 in profit for her captors. Such a profitable industry is not one that many criminals or corrupt officials can ignore. GlobalPost found that Kosovan government officials were profiting from or taking part in the sexual aspect of trafficking in the past, but they never faced any charges.

Fight Against Human Trafficking

According to the U.S. Department of State, Kosovo qualifies as a Tier 2 country, meaning that while it does not meet every standard set for eliminating human trafficking, it is making a solid effort. These efforts include implementing new standard operating procedures, meant to increase prosecution efficiency. The government of Kosovo also dedicated more funds and resources to helping victims of human trafficking. A big part of this was the opening of state-run shelters for these victims.

These new measures are a massive improvement from a government that GlobalPost said is profiting off of the human trafficking industry in the nation. However, the problem is far from disappearing. Despite the high rates of human trafficking in Kosovo, very few traffickers face convictions. Kosovo’s Criminal Code sentences convicted traffickers to five to 12 years in prison. Of those convicted, most only serve between seven and 18 months, according to ONETrack International.

Next Steps

A report that the Council of Europe’s anti-trafficking group, GRETA, published, outlined improvements that Kosovo could make to lessen the prevalence of human trafficking in the nation. GRETA stresses the importance of ensuring the prioritization of trafficking cases in Kosovo’s judicial system. As well as this, GRETA emphasizes identifying victims of human trafficking, specifically child trafficking. A large portion of the trafficking victims in Kosovo are actually from Albania. Partly because of ethnic tensions, the country often deports these children back to their home country before making proper identification, greatly lessening the chance of catching the perpetrator of the crime.

The U.S. Department of State has also outlined recommendations to reduce human trafficking in Kosovo. It again emphasized prosecution and sentencing, with higher conviction rates and longer sentences as key points of discussion. Another measure Kosovo should take into account is the training of judiciary officials in each region so they can properly manage cases of human trafficking. It is unclear if Kosovo plans to implement any of these recommendations, but given the recent successes of the victim shelters and regionally assigned officials, some optimism remains.

– Thomas Schneider
Photo: Flickr

Kosovo women in politics
Kosovo women hold more power in politics than ever before, including the highest office. Vjosa Osmani became the acting president of Kosovo after the arrest of the previous leader for war crimes in November 2020. For Kosovo women in politics, suppression from the 1990s Serbian rule still affects their representation in democratic offices since Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. However, 44 of 120 new Parliament members the country elected in February 2021 were women, marking the highest number of women that the body has ever elected.

5 Ways That Kosovo Women are Gaining Representation in Politics

  1. Parliament Quota – After the Kosovo War with Serbia ended in 1999, Kosovo’s police force expanded to include the recruitment of female officers. One of these officers, Atifete Jahjaga, became Kosovo’s first female president in 2011. In 2004, Kosovo’s Law on Gender Equality declared equal opportunity for male and female participation in politics. In 2008, the Law on General Elections introduced a gender quota requiring a representation of at least 30% of either gender in elections. During the 2021 February election, women won more seats in Parliament than any previous year. About 40% of seats in Parliament are now for Kosovo women.
  2. National Democratic Institute’s Week of Women – In Kosovo, there is an annual workshop called The Week of Women. This campaign brings about 100 Kosovo women together to discuss various topics in politics. In 2018, Kosovo held its first six-month intensive program called Women’s Leadership Academy (WLA). The academy focuses on building skills for Kosovo women in politics and one can still access it online. The National Democratic Institute coaches women with various political representations, organizations and research findings. On September 15, 2018, participants shared their results with the Women’s Caucus in the Kosovo Assembly to celebrate the International Day of Democracy.
  3. Kosovo Women’s Network – The Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN) strives to improve women’s participation in politics. Six programs partner with 158 membered organizations. The programs include strengthening measures, decision-making, health care, gender, empowerment and education.
  4. “Marching, not Celebrating” Protest – In March 2020, Acting President Vjosa Osmani and Prime Minister-designate Albin Kurti attended protests for women. The rally had the title of “Marching, not Celebrating” and protested rampant domestic violence and a patriarchal society. Osmani is the second female president since the Serbian war, a substantial example of increasing opportunity for Kosovo women in politics.
  5. Girls Lead Act – The Girls Lead Act is a U.S. bill that received introduction in 2019. It directs the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to report to Congress the best solutions to help girls in democratic governance. If passed, this act will prioritize foreign aid in these areas as well, and can significantly aid Kosovo women. Currently, the bill receives support online.

An Optimistic Future

Kosovo women in politics are steadily increasing their solidification of power within the democracy. Kosovo’s independence is growing, though Russia and China’s support of Serbia only recognize Kosovo as a partially independent country. But, the United States and reputable European countries wholeheartedly recognize Kosovo’s independence, providing hope to not just women but also Kosovo’s people in general.

– Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Kosovo
Since its independence, Kosovo has made efforts to progress gender equality. Its written laws and Constitution declare women as equal to men and one can see such equality at the highest levels with the recent promotion of a woman as acting president and the multiple females operating in high-level cabinet positions, including deputy prime minister. Kosovo law obliges all public institutions to ensure equal gender representation, including in leadership positions, as well. From the outside looking in, the laws in place and the fact that women are in leadership roles in government appear to showcase the promotion of women’s rights in Kosovo. However, the country requires more work to ensure full equality between men and women.

The Reality

Despite what looks like outstanding progress towards gender equality and the strengthening of women’s rights in Kosovo, the reality is that women face insurmountable struggles compared to their male counterparts in everyday life. Women experience discrimination regarding access to property and social resources, and problems of personal security and cultural equality. What many see from the outside is not representative of the traditional patriarchal society that exists in Kosovo, in which men have primary access to economic and social resources. It seems that not even law can uproot cultural traditions, which continue to dominate people’s perceptions of female rights and roles in society.

Property Rights

The situation regarding property rights illustrates the mirage of gender equality and the deeply ingrained cultural traditions that limit women’s rights in Kosovo. Despite inheritance law, which grants equal inheritance rights to men and women, women own only 17% of property in Kosovo; far below other Balkan states. Much of the reason for this roots in the power of traditional societal norms and roles that originated from the Albanian code of ethics, the Kanun. This ancient code subverts women to second-class citizenship. It suggests that a woman must move into her husband’s ancestral home. Meanwhile, it dictates that if her husband dies, the property rights should go to her brother or a male cousin.

What does this mean for poverty? The idea that women cannot own property can trickle into other areas that dictate women’s rights in Kosovo and female access to opportunities and resources. The norms perpetuate the stereotyping of gendered roles, with female associated roles as domestic and males as the breadwinners. Such stereotyping reduces the ability of women to be an equal member of the family and society in terms of economics. It also results in significant dependency on male family members as well as the government for women to financially survive.

Even where women want to pursue their dreams and break the glass ceiling, property rights disrupt their progress. Without property, women cannot gain access to loans, and without loans, many women have no means of becoming entrepreneurs or training in new occupations. This is evident in the business sector where females own only 6% of businesses. Clearly, cultural norms are significant and greatly limit female chances of economic and social progression.

Looking Forward

Despite deeply embedded cultural and social norms, women’s rights in Kosovo are improving. In January 2014, UN Women in Kosovo financed the production of a report to look into property rights and the legal structures that govern them. Other organizations and human rights NGOs have followed suit and undertaken and supported campaigns aimed at researching, spreading awareness and pressuring the domestic government to enforce equal property rights.

Aside from advocacy and government pressure to act to better implement policies to protect women’s rights regarding owning property, the Kosovo Cadastre Agency (KCA), which the World Bank co-created with the Agency for Gender Equality, has created a program to register joint ownership of marital property between spouses. Such schemes are helping women gain the rights they deserve and that Kosovo’s Constitution gives them. The creation of new programs and the pressuring of the Kosovar government are going towards ensuring equal access to property rights, and as a result, equal access to financial and social resources and opportunities to allow women to flourish.

– Elizabeth Alexander
Photo: Flickr

European Union Membership
The European Union, or E.U., stands as a pillar in Europe, promoting economic and political stability. The partner countries of the E.U. make up a thriving economic landscape. The 10 poorest countries in Europe are not members of the European Union. This includes nations such as Ukraine, Moldova and Kosovo, which stand as the three poorest countries in the continent. If these countries were to have European Union membership, would they benefit?

Anatomy of an Impoverished Country

Ukraine, Moldova and Kosovo a history of government corruption in common. In Moldova, the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system in 2014 was due to various politicians. Losses like this, high public debt and detrimental business decisions have allowed corruption to thrive. This severely impacts growth potential.

Similarly, in Ukraine, the elite still controls the economy. The economy never healed from the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Politicians with ulterior motives have quickly hijacked any start of the national budget, such as the military budget. Competition has disappeared in multiple sectors inhibiting growth. For example, politicians frequently make pricing decisions with business in mind rather than individuals.

The preservation of the elite interests blocks agricultural reform, while the monopolization of government funds by private bank owners shuts down bank reform before it can start. As well, the Ukrainian diaspora does little to combat this.

In Kosovo, the political climate remains volatile, with former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj having resigned in July 2019. The E.U. reported that the messy election process that followed in his wake lacked “constructive political dialogue,” in part due to the lack of minimum-member requirements to make forum meetings valid.

Following this, a caretaker government remained in place under the leadership of former Prime Minister Albin Kurti until the election of current Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti. The 2019 election revealed several unsavory truths about the state of politics in Kosovo. Voter intimidation tactics underwent deployment against non-Srpska Lista (the Serb List, a minority political party) candidates and supporters.

Whether the activities of the government include explicitly skimming funds initially for the welfare of the people, or suppressing voices when the nation has the potential to change, corrupt governments are all too common in impoverished countries. The elite seeks to protect specific interests and fund individual exploits at the expense of the people.

European Union Membership

Countries that want to undergo consideration for E.U. membership need to meet three major criteria. The first requires the applying nation to have a stable, democratic government that protects human rights. The second is a competitive economy. The third is that the applicant must be willing to comply with the E.U.’s political, economic and monetary policies.

In joining the E.U., citizens of partnered countries access a market with diverse choices and stable prices, as well as a secure and lucrative economy. Moreover, the nation joins the global economy via the E.U., presenting a cohesive, prominent European identity. All of these factors lend support and power to the people, unlike when support and power are at risk under a corrupt government. However, an obstacle to E.U. membership that remains, is these formerly corrupt governments must meet a certain ethical standard.

The International Committee of the Red Cross

Fixing the main obstacles inhibiting these countries’ growth requires more than one solution.  While European Union membership could be a valuable resource and an incredible step forward for countries like Kosovo and Ukraine, they have to make several strides before they can receive membership. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) can help triage several of these issues, stabilizing the area to help get them closer to European Union membership.

For example, in Ukraine, where infrastructure has taken a hit with government corruption and negligence, the ICRC provided 850,000 people with water, due to trying to fix the sanitation sector and setting up waterboards. Meanwhile, 67 health care facilities received necessary supplies. Moreover, 120,000 obtained food, hygiene, cash aid for agricultural endeavors and grants for business opportunities.

Looking Ahead

Joining the E.U. is not a cure for poverty in Europe. Meeting the baseline criteria concerning human rights and the economy can be challenging for many impoverished countries. Additionally, E.U. membership is a partnership that does not have the intention of being a one-way deployment of aid.

For the E.U., the protection of human rights, a stable economy and a cohesive identity are important factors. The lack of these qualities often allows poverty to thrive. A weak and volatile economy leaves many citizens income-insecure, especially in places where minority groups receive poor treatment. Furthermore, corruption, like siphoning government funds, can prevent an economy from getting on its feet.

Organizations like the ICRC can help stabilize areas as it can help Ukraine and Kosovo obtain their daily needs and start growing their infrastructure. This would help them join the E.U. in which nations agree to make policies that will abide by the E.U.’s goals. This will allow nations like Ukraine and Kosovo to work more easily with other E.U. members and promote regional stability and consistency of policy and cohesion of identity.

Stronger together than apart, the E.U. provides more opportunities for individual nations inside to trade with those that lay outside the immediate vicinity.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

“Every Last Child” Save the Children believes that children have the right to grow up healthy, educated and safe. Since its beginning in 1919, the organization has worked in more than 100 countries. In 2019 alone, the organization reached more than 144 million children globally. One of the organization’s campaigns, Every Last Child, has allowed Save the Children to increase its reach to especially vulnerable populations of children around the world.

The Start

Save the Children introduced the global campaign to the world on April 26, 2016. The campaign strives to reach children who do not have adequate access to health care, education and protection. It works to end preventable deaths among children. The specific goal is to avoid at least 600,000 preventable child deaths. Another facet of the campaign is aiding children in receiving a basic quality education. The quantified objective for this goal is to help 50 million more children gain access to education. A 15-year time frame, 2030, is the target date for these missions. So far, the campaign has helped 15 million of the world’s “excluded children” gain access to life-saving health care and quality education.

“Excluded Children”

Every Last Child focuses on “excluded children,” defined as children “not benefiting from recent global progress in social well-being, particularly in health and learning because of a toxic mix of poverty and discrimination.” The campaign did research to establish the extent of exclusion associated with certain groups of children. It found that persecution and discrimination based on beliefs impacted 400 million children with ethnic and religious backgrounds. Further, children with disabilities are four times more likely to experience physical and sexual violence and neglect when compared to their peers.

Three Guarantees

The campaign calls on leaders across the world to make three guarantees for all children. The first guarantee is the establishment of fair finance. The Every Last Child campaign describes this as “sustainable financing of and free access to essential services.” This includes escalating public investment in high-quality health and educational services to increase access for all children.

The second guarantee is to establish equal treatment by putting an end to discriminatory policies and norms. This is to help eliminate bias that negatively impacts minority groups.

The third guarantee is to increase the accountability of decision-makers by amplifying the voices of excluded groups in policymaking. This will ensure the allocation of community budgets positively impact excluded groups of children. These three promises help contribute to the mission of the Every Last Child campaign.

Tailored Strategies

The campaign customizes its efforts to fit each country’s needs. While many countries experience similar issues, not all of them are equal in the extent of assistance necessary. In order to reach these vulnerable populations of children, the issues the campaign addresses vary in each country.

For example, in Niger, the Every Last Child campaign advocates for the adoption of policies that outlaw early child marriage and support access to quality education. In Yemen, the campaign fights for the protection of children affected by conflict. In Kosovo, the campaign promotes access to quality services in the education and health industries for children, particularly those with disabilities.

The goal is to make these services and information about the services available to parents and families in the country to create greater access. Customizing its goals allows the Every Last Child campaign to focus on the most pressing issues affecting each country.

Since its beginning in 2016, Save the Children’s Every Last Child campaign has committed to put an end to the exclusion of vulnerable populations of children. Through its research and advocacy efforts, the organization has helped to address the need to increase access to life-saving health care and quality education for children worldwide to ensure that no child is left out of the advancements of the world.

Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

air pollution in KosovoIn December 2019, children in Kosovo, a disputed territory in Southeast Europe, wore face masks on their way to school. But, this action did not stem from curbing the spread of COVID-19, the deadly contagion that has since gripped the world. Instead, children wore face masks to protect themselves from air pollution in Kosovo.

Causes of Air Pollution

Power plants that are run by burning coal, private residences that burn coal for heat and antiquated automobiles that run on less environmental-friendly engines contribute to air pollution in Kosovo. In particular, the Kosovo B power station, outside Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, released a massive quantity of nitrogen oxide and dust emissions until the plant’s modernization began in 2019. Modernization efforts seek to immediately improve air quality. In the long term, modernization efforts will meet the standards of the European Union’s (EU) environmental safety regulations and improve Kosovo’s domestic infrastructure.

The EU invested in two initiatives that would help Kosovo’s air pollution relief efforts. First, the EU granted $83 million to the Kosovo B power station’s modernization. Second, the EU invested another $7.6 million to renovate heating systems in private and public buildings throughout Kosovo, including schools and homes.

Poverty’s Impact on Methods of Heating Private Homes

Much debate surrounds the question of whether wood is an environmentally responsible source of heat energy. Many scientists fear that acknowledging wood sources as an environmentally friendly form of heat energy will give the green light to deforestation, one of the primary contributors to the world’s environmental crisis. For many citizens of Kosovo, wood and coal are the least expensive methods to heat their homes.

Around the world, indoor air pollution kills more than 1.5 million people. Indoor air pollution is caused by burning substances like coal, wood and human or animal feces in small, enclosed areas with antiquated heating systems. Along with the human toll, indoor air pollution contributes to the environmental crisis.

For example, indoor air pollution is a factor that contributes to overall air pollution in Kosovo. The bulk of the EU’s investment to address air pollution in Kosovo went toward modernizing the Kosovo B power station. The amount of money the EU invested in addressing indoor air pollution amounted to about a tenth of the money the EU invested in modernizing the power station. Former Environment Minister Fatmir Matoshi put the weight of the responsibility in addressing indoor air pollution on Kosovo’s citizens by asking them to refrain from using coal and wood to heat their homes. However, low-income households would face severe challenges in obtaining alternative heating sources as wood and coal are the least expensive methods for families to heat their homes.

Efforts to Address Poverty and Air Pollution in Kosovo

People who live in poverty have to rely on more accessible, less expensive means to heat their homes. Toxic biomass fuels, like coal and wood, are used by approximately 2.5 billion people worldwide. In Kosovo, people are unable to stop using coal and wood because they lack the means to heat their homes with other non-toxic materials.

To reduce air pollution in Kosovo, the nation must first address poverty. Fortunately, some organizations are making strides to mitigate the issue. The Ideas Partnership selects individual families from minority groups in Kosovo to support. Many such families subsist via “garbage picking,” the only source of income and sustenance otherwise available to them. The Ideas Partnership aims to remove families from overcrowded dwellings and provide them with food and shelter so parents can focus on the education and well-being of their children.

The Kosovar Organization for Talent and Education recognizes the role education plays in preparing Kosovo’s youth for the labor force. Kosovo’s population is young; a quarter of the nation’s citizens are younger than 19 years old. In 2017, more than half of Kosovo’s youthful population faced unemployment. The Kosovar Organization for Talent and Education began in 2015. Today, more than 15,000 citizens have participated in the program as volunteers and students. The organization’s goal is to improve the quality of education in Kosovo while preparing students to enter the workforce.

Air pollution in Kosovo links to a variety of factors that the nation must promptly address. Widespread, oppressive poverty in Kosovo stands at the root of this issue. Kosovo must address both poverty and air pollution simultaneously to achieve long-term well-being and sustainability.

—Taylor Pangman
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in Kosovo
In the aftermath of a civil war in the 1990s, Kosovo is riddled with hunger and poverty. Inadequacies in education, employment and healthcare all contribute to food insecurity and scarcity in Kosovo. Here is some information about poverty and hunger in Kosovo.

Obstacles

Kosovo is Europe’s youngest country, just inland of the Adriatic sea and is home to around 1.85 million people. Available poverty data from 2011 shows that almost one-third of the population (29.2%) lives on less than $2 per day and an additional 10% live in extreme poverty ($1.20 per day). Many households reported that aside from property, food was their most significant expense. Research indicates that in many low-income houses, as much as 40% of a household’s income went toward food.

In the 1990s, Kosovo suffered from a prolonged civil war and as a result, its economy is still recovering. Long term stability seems distant with high unemployment rates. As the USCIA reported, youth unemployment sits at 51.5% for males and 64.8% for females, making it the second-highest in the world at 55.4% (ages 15-24). Meanwhile, reports determined that the unemployment of the working-age group was 32.9%. Due to a lack of economic reforms and investments, these unemployment rates remain high and unwavering.

Protracted problems of environmental degradation, drought and biodiversity loss contribute to problems of food scarcity. Once an agriculturally sustainable area, droughts and infertility made land unfarmable. As a result, the country gradually has become less self-sufficient and is now heavily dependent upon imported goods.

Healthcare

Nutrition insecurity is widespread. In addition to lacking consistent access to food, it is even more difficult for people to find foods with adequate nutrition. Unsurprisingly,  obesity and anemia rates have risen due to a lack of consistent access to nutritious foods. The World Bank states that “[food] producers also face large losses on perishable and nutritious food as consumption patterns shift towards cheaper staples.” The loss of local nutritious foods further contributes to the problem of nutrition security and perpetuates health conditions like obesity and anemia.

Historically, chronic hunger as a result of poverty has characterized Kosovo. “In 1999 in Kosovo, 11,000 children older than 5 years were estimated to be acutely malnourished and about 17,000 would be affected by stunting. Over 5% of the surveyed mothers had a BMI below 18.5 and more than 10% were obese.” The same report stated that “58% of the children were anemic.” These statistics are significant obstacles to the country’s development.

Solutions

While there have been considerable improvements in Kosovo’s development, there is still plenty of room to grow. Until Kosovo can reach a point of self-sufficiency, aid should go to those in need.

The good news is that there are several nonprofit organizations operating in Kosovo to help relieve some of the stressful effects of poverty on its citizens. One of these organizations is CARE International, which aims to promote peaceful resolution of conflict and stability in the country. Since its foundation in 1993, effective strategies have been petitioning to increase foreign aid, educating the public and encouraging volunteer work and fundraising for the most vulnerable communities in Kosovo.

Along with functioning nonprofit organizations, the U.N. has implemented a plan, the Stabilization Association Agreement (SAA), which establishes an official relationship between Kosovo and the E.U. Through this agreement, Kosovo has received more aid and is on a more sustainable path. “This agreement is a milestone for the E.U.-Kosovo relationship. It will help Kosovo make much-needed reforms and will create trade and investment opportunities.” The economic stability produced through this agreement will provide jobs and allow for progress within the country, eventually leading to more independent governance.

Allyson Reeder
Photo: Flickr

End Tuberculosis Now Act
Kosovo is a country in southeastern Europe that declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. It is Europe’s youngest nation, but also one of its smallest and poorest. Kosovo ranks 137th in the world for GDP per capita and the country’s overall budget is just above $2 billion. Despite the fact that Tuberculosis (TB) is a completely preventable, treatable and curable airborne infection, the virus continues to spread throughout developing nations—including Kosovo—killing more people per year than any other infectious disease. The End Tuberculosis Now Act seeks to address this silent pandemic by refocusing U.S. efforts towards effective TB prevention and treatment in Kosovo and other developing countries. Neither the House nor Senate has held a vote on the End Tuberculosis Now Act since its introduction in August 2019. Kosovo demonstrates the importance of this act and why Congress needs to address it.

Kosovo’s Tuberculosis Rates

Among its neighbors in southeastern Europe, Kosovo has one of the highest TB infection rates, trailing only Moldova and Romania. From 1999 to 2006, total TB cases in Kosovo were declining. This progress has since stopped, with infection rates plateauing at the rate they were in 2006. A limited budget has severely hampered Kosovo’s efforts to combat and eradicate TB.

Kosovo’s insufficient health system is one reason behind the country’s spread of TB. A majority of Kosovo’s residents are dissatisfied with their health service. In addition, the nation’s top health authority is not responsible for contact tracing, testing, treatment or any other method that people use to combat TB. Instead, non-governmental organizations have received this responsibility, resulting in a lack of central planning. The End Tuberculosis Now Act would refocus USAID efforts on TB prevention and treatment in developing nations like Kosovo, providing a unified example of how to properly stop the spread and financially support affected individuals.

Kosovo and COVID-19

For some of the same reasons it struggles with TB, Kosovo is also struggling to stop the spread of COVID-19. Compared to its neighbors, the country’s pandemic response is falling short. Kosovo is much smaller than Albania, Montenegro and Greece, but has many more COVID-19 cases and deaths than these nations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the aforementioned weaknesses in Kosovo’s healthcare system. For example, temporary medical facilities built to increase the nation’s hospital capacity have not been properly set up to prevent COVID-19 transmission between healthcare workers and infected patients.

No matter how valiant Kosovo’s efforts to combat COVID-19 are, the country is ultimately limited by its $2 billion yearly budget. The same is true when it comes to their fight against TB. Kosovo simply lacks the capital to properly test, treat and prevent the spread of both COVID-19 and TB. The End Tuberculosis Now Act will give developing nations like Kosovo a better chance of defeating TB while teaching them how to tackle similar pandemics.

Putting the Tuberculosis Fight on Hold

As the COVID-19 pandemic takes center stage, the fight against TB has been put on hold across the world. Despite this, TB has continued its spread. Approximately 80% of worldwide programs to combat the disease have experienced disruptions in their supply chains since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manufacturers of TB tests have pivoted to developing COVID-19 tests, reducing the overall availability of TB testing. This means massive drops in diagnosing TB. In one year, an infected individual can spread the virus to 15 people, making the diagnostic process extremely important. As testing capacities decrease, TB will continue its spread unabated in developing nations. Kosovo was already struggling to contain TB before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it could now get much worse. The End Tuberculosis Now Act is a critical component in increasing testing capacities in Kosovo to combat the spread of TB.

More Important Than Ever

TB is a preventable and treatable disease, yet it continues to kill more people worldwide than any other infectious disease. The End Tuberculosis Now Act would increase investments in TB prevention and treatment measures while saving countless lives in developing nations like Kosovo.

Furthermore, the bill would ensure that nations and non-governmental organizations receiving aid from USAID would stand by their commitments to eradicate TB. This refocusing of aid would provide the World Health Organization and the Stop TB Partnership with more resources to fulfill their missions.

Moving Forward

Kosovo’s continued fight against TB demonstrates the importance of the End Tuberculosis Now Act. The bill, introduced in August 2019, would save lives in developing nations and help combat a completely preventable and treatable disease. Congress must pass this bill to increase the quality of life for the world’s poor and help eradicate TB in developing nations.

Marcus Lawniczak
Photo: Flickr

Water Insecurity in KosovoThe World Bank has secured aid for Kosovo to help the country’s water security efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 10, 2020, the World Bank approved a budget of $27.4 million to invest in aid to address water insecurity in Kosovo. The new “Kosovo Fostering and Leveraging Opportunities for Water Security Program,” implemented nationwide, will reach struggling regions within the country, such as Morava e Binces — the driest area of all.

COVID-19 and Water Security

In a statement from the World Bank, the manager for Kosovo, Marco Mantovanelli, stated that addressing Kosovo’s water crisis is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access (or lack thereof) to clean water for drinking and sanitation has a direct impact on the COVID-19 crisis. The World Bank representative described clean water as an “essential barrier to preventing virus spread and protecting human health from COVID-19 and similar diseases.”

The World Resources Institute (WRI) reports that hand washing is one of the primary combatants against a disease like COVID-19. Additionally, both water management and security impact the spread of a disease like COVID-19. Without proper storage, water shortages occur and people have limited access to water for sanitation. Water management (pollution control and distribution) directly impacts the quality and quantity of water accessible  to the population. WRI reports that improving both domestic and industrial water waste treatments improves water quality and helps improve issues related to water use for sanitation and health.

Water in Kosovo

Kosovo’s water crisis is only worsened by the virus as the crisis existed before the COVID-19 pandemic. The issues of water pollution are rooted in Kosovo even from when it was a province in the former Yugoslavia. It was the most polluted province then and now, a majority of the Kosovo municipalities have no form of treatment plants for wastewater. Additionally, the World Bank reports that Kosovo has the lowest water storage level in the region — as well as high pollution levels.

The new water security plan will address some key issues in water security. These issues include management of resources, water storage, addressing natural disasters and their impacts, dam safety, updating equipment and facilities and general emergency preparedness.

The Impact on Struggling Regions in Kosovo

While the entire country will benefit from the plan, the strategy will specifically benefit the driest region in Kosovo — Morava e Binces. Morava e Binces has had significant problems with water access for its civilian population. The region has suffered greatly with water access interruptions. Some of these interruptions last hundreds of days. However, with the implementation of the new plan, the World Bank estimates 190,000 people will be positively impacted in the Morava e Binces region alone.

The World Bank’s approved aid will begin work on installing new and updated equipment, replan the water storage processes, and make additional renovations to dam maintenance and safety. This aid program is an essential step in ending water insecurity in Kosovo. While the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated an already existing, water security problem within Kosovo, government initiatives are a good, forward step.

Kiahna Stephens
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