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, they have worked in over 100 countries. In 2019 alone, the organization reached over 144 million children globally. One of their newest campaigns, “Every Last Child,” has allowed them to increase their reach to especially vulnerable populations of children around the world. Below are four facts about the campaign and its efforts.

The Start

The world was introduced to the global campaign 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 deaths among children from preventable causes. The specific goal is to prevent 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 helping 50 million more children gain access to education. A 15-year time frame, 2030, was the basic idea for these missions. So far, the campaign has helped 15 million of the world’s “excluded children” have access to life-saving health care and quality education.

“Excluded Children”

“Every Last Child” focuses on “excluded children“, defined as those “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 for beliefs occurred to 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 amount of impact needed. In order to reach these vulnerable populations of children, the issues addressed by the campaign are varied 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, they fight for the protection of children affected by conflict. In Kosovo, they promote 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 them available to parents and families in the country to create greater access. Customizing their goals allows the “Every Last Child” campaign to focus on the most pressing issues affecting each country.

Since their beginning in 2016, Save the Children’s “Every Last Child” campaign has made it their mission to put an end to the exclusion of vulnerable populations of children. Through their research and advocacy efforts, they have 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 social world.

Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

Last December, children in Kosovo, a disputed territory in southeast Europe, already wore masks on their way to school. They weren’t worried about COVID-19, the deadly contagion that has since gripped the world. Instead, children wore masks to protect themselves from air pollution in Kosovo.

Power plants that 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 environmental safety regulations, as well as improve Kosovo’s domestic infrastructure.

The European Union invested in two initiatives that would help Kosovo’s air pollution relief efforts. First, the European Union granted $83 million to the Kosovo B power station’s modernization. Second, the European Union 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 environmental crisis. For many citizens of Kosovo, wood and coal are the least expensive methods to heat their homes.

Around the world, more than one and a half million people are killed each year by indoor air pollution. 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 E.U.’s investment to address air pollution in Kosovo went toward modernizing the Kosovo B power station. The amount of money the E.U. invested in addressing indoor air pollution amounted to about a tenth of the money the E.U. invested in modernizing the power station. Former Environment Minister Fatmir Matoshi put the weight of the responsibility of addressing indoor air pollution on Kosovo’s citizens when he asked them to refrain from using coal and wood to heat their homes. However, low-income households would face severe challenges in obtaining an alternative heating source as stated previously, 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 two and a half 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, poverty must first be addressed. 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 have subsisted 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 educational and well-being goals for 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 its citizens are younger than 19 years old. In 2017, over one half of Kosovo’s youthful population was unemployed. The Kosovar Organization for Talent and Education began in 2015. Today, more than 15,000 have participated in the program as volunteers and students. Its goal is to improve the quality of education in Kosovo while preparing students to enter the workforce.

Air pollution in Kosovo is caused by a variety of factors that must be vigorously addressed. Widespread, oppressive poverty in Kosovo is at the root of this issue. Both poverty and air pollution should be addressed simultaneously to arrive at the best results for Kosovo’s future health.

—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
Photo: Pixabay

Homelessness in Kosovo
Although the Kosovo war has ended, there are still citizens who remain displaced. The U.N. Refugee Agency reported that 90,000 people still need housing assistance, and there lacks a clear strategy set to combat homelessness. Although a cogent strategy has yet to reveal itself, there are key issues that the government and various aid organizations need to look at in order to combat homelessness in Kosovo. These include domestic abuse, the development of housing projects and the fate of internally displaced people (IDP).

Domestic Abuse

Many women and children suffer from domestic abuse in Kosovo. In 2016, reports determined that there were 870 cases of domestic violence in Kosovo, with women mostly being the target. Currently, officials lack adequate housing assistance for those who suffer from domestic abuse. There are two components that make housing assistance inadequate: financial instability in the shelters, and the low chance of adequate housing for women and children after they leave the shelter. These factors leave women and children at risk of homelessness in Kosovo. The shelters have been improving in recent times. According to a report from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, over 400 women along with their children received assistance and shelter from the operating shelters in Kosovo between January and November 2018.

Housing Projects

 The Kosovo war, which lasted from 1998 to 1999, has also put a number of its citizens at the brink of homelessness. The chaos from war has resulted in the destruction of 120,000 housing structures. The state of homelessness in Kosovo is also hard to define because the nation does not address the level of homelessness at the national level and instead diverts these responsibilities to different regional agencies. These circumstances have forced many refugees into a state of uncertainty. Thankfully, officials that have received the designation to work on housing projects had begun constructing housing projects for the refugees beginning to return home. Contractors begun building the R121 million-dollar housing project in the summer of 2019 and residents were able to move in the following year.

Internally Displaced People

Kosovo’s long-lasting conflict has left many of its people to fall into the category of IDPs. The term describes internally displaced people who flee their homes but still remain on the borders of their nation. A majority of the people reside in Serbia, where they have access to healthcare and social services. IDPs have the unfortunate risk of facing discrimination in the process of obtaining these rights. To add, many IDPs may lack identification which puts them into a stateless position within their own country. IDPs mainly tend to go back to rural areas rather than urban areas because they face the threat of violence upon their return. The government of Kosovo has been making slight progress on the issue of violence through services for the homeless called “do no harm” innovations. The innovation makes it required that refugees and IDPs returning home shall not be harmed. Although the act is small and not groundbreaking, it is a step towards positive change for homelessness in Kosovo.

Ashleigh Jimenez
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Newly Independent Nations
Poverty in newly independent nations is an extremely common phenomenon. Within the past two decades, millions of people have sought independence through referendums and massive social movements, and have succeeded in severing ties with parent nations. However, these grand pursuits of freedom can often lead to instances of large-scale poverty. When analyzing the economic statuses and poverty in newly independent nations likeMontenegro, Kosovo and South Sudan, it is evident that they are no exception.

Montenegro

After the end of World War II, Montenegro became a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. When Yugoslavia dissolved in 1992, Montenegro unified with Serbia, originally the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Later in 2003, it joined Serbia and Montenegro in the much looser association. In the spring of 2006, Montenegro held a referendum on independence from the state union, citing its right under the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro. The vote for severing ties with Serbia exceeded 55%, officially allowing Montenegro to formally declare its independence on June 3, 2006.

Since this success, the country has experienced many changes and the growing issue of poverty. The majority of the poor in Montenegro, however, is its own citizens, despite housing an impressive number of refugees. When considering economic development by region, one can observe large disparities. In fact, in the northern region of Montenegro, the poverty rate has risen to 10.3%, much higher than the national average. Much work remains to combat poverty in Montenegro that its struggle for independence may have been temporarily overshadowed.

Kosovo

After declaring independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo established a parliamentary republic. It officially declared independence on February 17, 2008, and more than 100 United Nations members and 23 out of 28 members of the European Union currently recognize it as a fully independent nation.

Kosovo’s economy has experienced tremendous growth in the past decade. However, despite its economic inclusivity characterizing it, it has not been able to provide a sufficient amount of formal jobs for citizens, particularly for women and the youth. Additionally, Kosovo has failed to significantly reduce the high rates of unemployment across the nation. As a result, unemployment and poverty have been on the rise since 2008. There have been solid efforts on the part of the government, foreign aid and service projects–such as the Kosovo Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Project, a $31 million project to reduce energy consumption– to help alleviate poverty in the new nation, but it remains an issue requiring further attention.

South Sudan

The Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest nation, as well as Africa’s 55th country, on July 9, 2011. However, resumed conflicts in late 2013 and mid-2016, undermined the development it achieved since independence, negating much of the progress that it had made.

With over half the population currently requiring humanitarian assistance, South Sudan faces massive challenges in economic development despite receiving considerable foreign aid and owning significant oil reserves. Not long after South Sudan’s independence, the country encountered successive crises, resulting in a large-scale conflict and an economic recession. By late 2017, nearly 4.5 million people experienced displacement from their homes, accounting for more than a third of the country’s population. Prolonged financial insecurity and large-scale displacement have taken a huge toll on the lives of the South Sudanese people.

Furthermore, private consumption has consistently fallen since the beginning of the civil war that prompted the nation to seek independence in the first place. Amid continuing violence, the economy is experiencing a significant reduction due to sinking oil revenue and disruptions of economic production.

Conclusion

These nations are a testament to the complications that may arise post-independence, including rising poverty levels and the difficulty of developing a robust economic sector capable of supporting citizens. However, the progress that some have made to reduce poverty in newly independent countries demonstrates that there is hope for these countries’ future success.

Daniela Canales
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in Kosovo
When it declared its independence in 2008, Kosovo became the second youngest country in the world. This nation of almost 1.9 million saw intense conflict in the decades leading up to its separation from Serbia and did not emerge unscathed. The state of Kosovo’s healthcare system bears the marks of war. From shortages of medical equipment to prohibitively expensive services, many aspects of Kosovo’s public health infrastructure need improvement. However, to best understand the unique challenges and opportunities facing healthcare in Kosovo, one must first have some understanding of its history.

A Little History

Until 1989, Kosovo was an autonomous region within Serbia, which was itself one of six republics comprising the former Yugoslavia. In March 1989, however, the Serbian government revoked Kosovo’s autonomous status. This action stirred significant social and political tension within the region; nearly a decade later, this tension would escalate to armed conflict.

Kosovo’s healthcare system was one of the first sites of friction between the Serbian government and Kosovo’s Albanian population. Starting in the early 1990s, more than 60% of Albanian health workers left their jobs for reasons including employers firing them outright or forcing them to bear discriminatory policies, like the health sector’s newly imposed Serbian language requirement. Meanwhile, the Serbian government also closed Kosovo’s only medical school. This closure interrupted the training of many medical students, leaving a generation of Albanian healthcare workers in the country with uneven medical credentials and large gaps in their education.

The spring of 1998 saw the outbreak of armed conflict between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and Serbian forces. By the war’s conclusion in June 1999, almost 90% of all clinics and hospitals had suffered damage. Meanwhile, the war destroyed nearly 100% of private clinics belonging to Albanian doctors. The post-conflict reconstruction efforts eventually led to the system that makes up healthcare in Kosovo today.

The Primary Care Model

International donors, who favored the implementation of a primary healthcare model, significantly influenced the recovery efforts following the war. In this model, there are three levels of care: primary, secondary and tertiary.

Primary care is to act as a gatekeeper to more specialized services, reducing reliance on secondary and tertiary institutions for routine healthcare. Researchers and Kosovar officials alike agree that it has largely been failing in this regard, primarily due to a failure to shift behavioral patterns and attitudes. Many patients prefer to seek out specialized care directly, and attempts to change this inclination are ongoing. In Kosovo, people can access primary care services at Family Medicine Centers (FMC), with one in each of the country’s 38 municipalities. Each FMC has, at minimum, two nurses and one doctor per 2,000 people in the area that the center serves.

Secondary care is accessible at any of seven regional hospitals; tertiary care is available only at the Kosovo University Hospital in the capital city of Pristina, Kosovo. While the Ministry of Health oversees secondary and tertiary services, primary care services are under municipal management.

Public Versus Private

Alongside public health institutions in Kosovo are numerous private clinics and hospitals, offering a range of services from general to specialized. Despite being more expensive than public healthcare, private health centers remain a popular choice for those seeking medical treatment in Kosovo. Those who can afford to do so cite better quality care and more streamlined services as their primary reasons for going to private over public hospitals and clinics.

In regard to healthcare employees, many workers choose to supplement their income from the public sector by also working in the private sector. This obvious, yet relatively common, conflict of interest can impact everything from the availability of certain types of medical equipment to the level of education provided to patients regarding their medical options. While there are some laws in place which seek to limit practices like referring patients from the public to private institutions, Kosovo’s healthcare system is in need of work to address corruption.

Health Insurance

According to the Act on Health, which Kosovo’s government passed into law in 2004, public health insurance is a human right. In 2014, the government passed the Law on Health Insurance in an effort to create a legal foundation from which a public health insurance program could emerge. As of 2019, however, the Health Insurance Fund detailed in this law had not become a reality, nor has it been thus far in 2020.

A lack of the necessary infrastructure is a barrier to the implementation of public health insurance, as well as a high unemployment rate. This is relevant as a premium from Kosovar incomes would fund the Health Insurance Fund almost entirely. In 2016, about 6% of Kosovars had purchased private health insurance. This leaves a significant majority of the country’s population without any health insurance to help alleviate the cost of services; with over 20% of Kosovo living in poverty, healthcare remains prohibitively expensive for many.

Outlook

Air pollution in Kosovo rivals places like Mumbai, India and Beijing, as well as the severe respiratory and cardiovascular effects that necessarily accompany such pollution. Additionally, persistently high rates of tuberculosis are current public health challenges in Kosovo. Limited monitoring and reporting on health-related statistics in the country make it difficult to ascertain recent progress in fighting these and other diseases. In 2019, the European Union invested €80 million in projects intended to improve the infrastructure contributing to Kosovo’s hazardous air quality.

At present, Kosovo is the third poorest country in Europe in terms of GDP per capita, despite its income per person more than tripling over the past 19 years. The country has one of the youngest populations in Europe with a median age of 28 and one of the highest rates of youth unemployment at 55.3%.

Life expectancy in 2018 was 72.2 years, almost three years higher than a decade earlier. From 2000 to 2016, Kosovo’s infant mortality rate decreased from 29 deaths per 1,000 births to 11. While this still is higher than the European average of 4.1 deaths per 1,000 births, Kosovo has made significant progress in lowering the mortality rate of its newborns and infants.

Although Kosovo clearly still has a great deal of work to do in terms of bettering both its healthcare system and the living standards of its citizens, this country has demonstrated its extraordinary capacity for improvement repeatedly throughout its history. Kosovo continues to face many challenges in its overall development, not the least of which is the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has already come so far, so improvements in healthcare in Kosovo seem possible in the decades to come.

– Gennaveve Brizendine
Photo: Flickr