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

Energy Crisis In Kosovo
The energy crisis in Kosovo has long inhibited its economy. Already suffering from a post-war economy, Kosovo’s need for green energy has increased dramatically as a result. The following are five of the most salient facts about the energy crisis in Kosovo.

5 Facts About the Energy Crisis in Kosovo

  1. Kosovo’s energy crisis, as well as war, has rendered it extremely poorabout one-third of the 1.8 million people in Kosovo live in poverty; the European nation reports a 60% unemployment rate for young adults between the ages of 15 and 24. After the war in Kosovo ended in 1999, its culture was left divided and its economy shattered. The additional strain of an energy crisis has only exacerbated the problem.
  2. Kosovo has historically relied on coal for energy—For most of its existence, two coal-powered plants—Kosovo A and Kosovo B—have produced 97% of its 900 MW “operating capacity,” according to the World Bank’s website. However, these plants have been in operation for a long time and rely on a non-renewable resource for power output.
  3. Kosovo’s current infrastructure has a short shelf lifeKosovo A, the older of the nation’s two plants, has produced energy from coal for 43 years, and it has been labeled Europe’s biggest pollutant. Likewise, Kosovo B has operated for 30 years and needs rehabilitation. The Government of Kosovo currently plans to cease the operation of Kosovo A and begin work to improve Kosovo B.
  4. Land disputes have worsened the problem in recent yearsIn 2017, the Kosovo government failed to seal a crucial land acquisition deal with the Sipitule village. The government desired the village’s land; the plan was to mine it for the 14 billion tons of coal thought to lie beneath it. Ultimately, Sipitule wanted more money than the government would pay, and the deal was not completed. At this time, Kosovo’s economy had already taken major blows as a result of insufficient power supply. According to Balkan Green Energy News, “the private sector of the economy suffered damages of almost EUR 300 million because of power shortages in 2016.” Since then, coal as a fuel source has become increasingly unable to support Kosovo and its people.
  5. Solar power can help solve the energy crisis in Kosovo from the inside—In 2015, in response to inflated costs of electricity, Kosovo native Fadil Hoxha started a solar panel manufacturing company called Jaha Solar. Today, Jaha Solar reports “a production capacity up to 200 MW solar panels per year” on their website. The company remains the only solar panel manufacturer in the region, but its numbers evince great success.

Kosovo still suffers greatly from poverty and insufficient energy, but companies like Jaha Solar have created new and cleaner methods of energy production that could help reduce the aftermath of coal dependency.

– Will Sikich
Photo: Flickr

Anti-Poverty Movement
The Borgen Project has published this article and podcast episode, “Creating an Anti-Poverty Movement with Clint Borgen,” with permission from The World Food Program (WFP) USA. “Hacking Hunger” is the organization’s podcast that features stories of people around the world who are struggling with hunger and thought-provoking conversations with humanitarians who are working to solve it.

 

When you ask nonprofit founders how their organization began, spending months on a fishing boat is rarely the answer. But that’s exactly where Clint Borgen developed his dream for The Borgen Project, an NGO that fights global poverty through advocacy and civic engagement. His ideas weren’t pulled completely from the sea, rather, they were inspired by unique global experiences that made him passionate about garnering more U.S. political attention on the issue of global poverty.

Nearly 20 years later, The Borgen Project has evolved from a sketchbook of plans to a nationwide campaign with volunteers in 931 cities. It advocates, mobilizes and educates to improve the living conditions of people living on less than a dollar a day.

Intrigued by his organization and career, we caught up with Clint at his home in Seattle. We asked him more about that fishing boat and his prior experiences – and how The Borgen Project is currently working to change the world.

Click below to listen to Clint Borgen’s story about The Borgen Project’s foundation and its work in the present day.

 

 

Photo: The Borgen Project

Life Expectancy in Kosovo
Kosovo is a newly and controversially independent Baltic state with its fair share of hardships. After only recently deescalating its conflict with Serbia, the war-torn country must continue to find how to establish itself in the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kosovo highlight Kosovo’s unstable internal conditions as well as the efforts that the country is putting forth to improve them.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kosovo

  1. In 2002, the average life expectancy in Kosovo was 68 years. It has steadily improved since then with the average life expectancy in Kosovo now being 72 years according to the World Bank. Improvements in many sectors, such as increased health care accessibility, education reforms and de-escalation of the conflict in the region may be a cause of this. Compared to the average life expectancy of the European Union (E.U.) nations (81 years), Kosovo has a long way to go. However, many project the yearly improvement over the past two decades to continue.
  2. According to the Kosovo Agency of Statistics, in 2017, 18 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. High poverty levels likely stem from a prevalence of unemployment (31 percent in 2017) as well as exceedingly low wages (500 euros monthly). This makes Kosovo the third poorest country in Europe. However, increased foreign investment and urban development have caused major improvements from figures just five years prior that show the poverty level at 23.5 percent, reflected by a higher unemployment rate of 35 percent.

  3. There is a vast disparity in health care access between minority populations and the general populous of Kosovo. Children living in rural areas are less likely to have access to good health care, and this is even worse for ethnic minorities. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), more than 60 percent of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children live in absolute poverty and over 30 percent live in extreme poverty (compared to the average statistics of 48.6 percent and 18.9 percent, respectively). A statistic that reflects this disparity is the infant mortality rate (IMR). The average IMR for the whole of Kosovo is 12 deaths per 1,000 live births. When looking at the IMR for minorities, that number jumps to 41 deaths per 1,000 live births.

  4. Kosovo has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $7.129 billion and spends 1.1 percent of it on health and social work, as well as 0.9 percent on public administration. While the amount the country spends on public health services is very low, Kosovars have seen improvements in basic health. The government has recently subsidized health care accessibility programs such as the Law on Health Insurance (2014) and the National Health Sector Strategy (2017-2021). The former gave all Kosovo citizens the right and obligation to have a basic, mandatory health insurance package that covers emergencies, pregnancies and childbirth and other health care essentials. The latter is a strategy the Ministry of Health adopted that focuses on better management of health care funds as well as improving the accessibility of basic health care to minorities and other marginalized communities. Ultimately, however, the outcomes of the new policies have been difficult to measure due to lacking administrative records and unclear implementation policies.

  5. The leading causes of death in Kosovo are circulatory system diseases, making up 62.7 percent of all deaths in 2015. Other prevalent causes of death are tumor diseases (14.7 percent) and respiratory diseases (5.4 percent). Kosovo also has one of the highest tuberculosis rates in Europe, according to the World Health Organization. Many of these diseases are due to the overwhelming amount of tobacco products consumed in Southeastern European countries, causing 80-90 percent of all lung cancer cases and increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and tuberculosis.

  6. Starting in 1998, Serbia cast out over 800,000 people from Kosovo during the Kosovo Conflict. Thousands of people still live in refugee camps since they have no way to reclaim their homes. Other organizations or individuals have bought the properties, and Kosovo courts make it very difficult to evict the illegal tenants and allow refugees to return to their homes. However, efforts from UN Habitat, a branch of the United Nations that deals with sustainable human settlements and shelters, have recently pushed for reform in Kosovo’s court system to more adequately handle the illegal seizures of property. The Kosovo Municipal Spatial Planning Support Programme, which UN Habitat developed, has built capacities for sustainable and affordable development of urban areas and has established institutions like the Housing and Property Directorate and the Kosovo Cadastre Agency.

  7. The homicide rate in Kosovo is measured at about 2.1 intentional homicides per every 100,000 people in 2016. This is impressively low, considering the global average is 6.2 homicides per 100,000 people and the U.S. average is 4.9 per 100,000.

  8. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) looks at three categories for fifteen-year-old students: math, reading and sciences. The test thereby evaluates teaching methods and education infrastructure and shows the government whether the improvement is necessary or not. In 2015, the PISA ranked Kosovo as one of the last three countries in all of the evaluated categories. The ranking is devastating, yet the Minister of Education Arsim Bajrami embraced the results with a promise of improvement. He stated, “[The decision to participate in the PISA] was a courageous act as well as a commitment to increase the quality of education in our country.” Since then, with the help of foreign aid, the government has worked to improve the technical training of teachers and the ability of Kosovo’s youngest generation to be financially viable.

  9. Kosovo air quality has been steadily decreasing over the past decade. In December 2018, Kosovo’s capital of Prishtina had an air quality measured as hazardous. Increased investment in coal and biofuel power plants have caused a sharp increase in air pollution. The Balkan Green Foundation and the Institute for Development Policy (INDEP) launched campaigns to raise awareness on the effects of excessive air pollution caused by fossil fuel. They have been pushing for transparency with energy expenditure and power plant output, but the government has been less than receptive. However, the green movement in Kosovo has gained traction very quickly within the past six months. There are now large pushes for the Kosovo government to be more accurate with air pollution reports as well as transportation reform to ensure car emissions are not unnecessarily high.

  10. The people of Kosovo consider corruption to be the most important problem facing them, after unemployment, according to the UNODC Corruption Report on Kosovo. Systemic bribery is endangering Kosovars by obstructing their access to law enforcement as well as health care. Thirty percent of all bribes went to police officers to overlook petty crimes, 26 percent went to nurses and a massive 42 percent of bribes went to doctors to either expedite or receive better treatment. The U.K.’s ambassador to Kosovo Ruairi O’Connell has pushed very strongly for a crackdown on governmental and private corruption, “The moment has come to remove officials whose integrity is contested. Politicians should not meddle in the work of police, courts, and prosecutor’s office.”As of yet, corruption continues to be widespread, and public opinion as well as the justice ministers in the Kosovo government call for immediate reform.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kosovo reflect that the condition is gloomy, but improving. Corruption is still endemic and ethnic disparities are prevalent, but outside influencers, like the U.N. and non-governmental organizations like INDEP are helping the government improve. If the government carries out infrastructure, education and health care developments successfully, the country would see improvements across the board and become a more competitive piece of the world with a much higher life expectancy.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Kosovo
Kosovo is a small, partially recognized country located in Balkan that has existed since its separation from Serbia in 2008. Despite being a young and still developing nation, it is rich in culture from its diverse populace. In the text below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Kosovo are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Kosovo

  1. Kosovo’s citizens are the second poorest in Europe. The country suffers an unemployment rate of 33 percent and youth unemployment near 60 percent.
  2. Around 45 percent of Kosovo’s population live below the poverty line, with 15 percent living in extreme poverty. Most of the population lives in rural areas, living on small plots with limited industrial tools. This leads to much of the country’s citizens being forced to live on near-subsistence farming.
  3. The country does not have enough doctors. Kosovo started new health care reform in 2010. These include universal, the state ran health insurance with a network of family health centers. The latest reports found 2,664 doctors in the program with an additional 1,457 doctors in the private sector. This totals 2.2 medical doctors per 1,000 citizens, far below the European average of 3.4.
  4. Personal hygiene is a huge problem in the country. Massive inequalities exist in the lower economic classes of the country in access to hygiene and sanitation. Lack of electricity exists for only 0.1 percent of university-educated people and 10 percent of people without an education. Meanwhile, lack of personal bathrooms are reported in large numbers and are usually divided by ethnic lines (0.3 percent of Albanian households compared to 20.2 percent of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian ethnicity households).
  5. Ethnic minorities face many legal barriers that compound their hardships. Minorities such as Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians suffer problems in obtaining personal documents needed to access health care, social assistance and education. This hinders these citizens from obtaining many of the programs designed to help low-income citizens, further trapping them in the vicious cycle of poverty.
  6. Many women face domestic violence as around 68 percent of women in Kosovo report having experienced domestic violence. This is due to a few and inadequate police and prosecutors responses. The government, however, has created a new National Strategy and Action Plan against Domestic Violence to fight against these crimes.
  7. People with diseases and injuries are at greater risk for inadequate homes, water and income. Inadequate housing is reported by 11.6 percent of those with diseases or injuries and inadequate water by 7.4 percent. Even more citizens in this situation, however, face problems with affordable conditions: 26.6 percent of citizens with health-related outcomes report inadequate affordability conditions.
  8. Kosovo’s courts are packed and overloaded. The latest reports from the International Monetary Fund showed the courts had 264,193 pending cases and a backlog of inventories ranging from 25.7 to 71.7 percent in different cases. They have 29 percent of their judicial positions filled and only five specialized judges in the lower court and only one in the appellate court. These statistics show a slow and inefficient court, hindering the legal action of citizens in the country.
  9. Kosovo is a fairly safe country. Kosovo has a crime index of 33.37. The same index is 37.27 in Serbia, 39.29 in Macedonia, 40.3 in Albania and 40.48 in Montenegro, all neighboring countries of Kosovo. In 2017, 72 citizens have been convicted of murder related crimes and 218 were convicted of robbery-related crimes in a country of 1.8 million people.
  10. There is not enough housing in the country as 21.5 percent of households report having two or more people per room in the house, and 28.7 percent have between 1.5 and 2 people per room. The United Nations had long been at work to address this problem, specifically in Prishtina. The project started in 2015 and in on-going.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Kosovo are meant to highlight the problems that urgently need to be addressed in the country. Despite the problems presented in the text above and other problems facing the country, many laws and initiatives are in the works to alleviate citizens’ poor situation. Both international and local programs are currently working to improve conditions in the country, so far successfully. This, combined with a seemingly stable economy, provides a hopeful future for the citizens of Kosovo.

– Zachary Sparks
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kosovo
Kosovo, once a part of Serbia, has a long history of working towards gaining independence. In 1996, a Kosovo rebel group created the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which led to repression by Serbia and an ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovar Albanians. A peace agreement in the late 1990s ended the conflict and gave control of Kosovo to a United Nations administration. In 2008, Kosovo officially declared its independence from Serbia with support from the U.N.

However, due to this conflict, Kosovo struggled in the early 2000s to rebuild its education system. This article will discuss the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kosovo.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kosovo

  1. Education in Kosovo is split into pre-primary, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary and tertiary levels. Within upper secondary, students can either attend a vocational or general education school.
  2. In 2005, 10 percent of rural girls dropped out of school before finishing Grade 5. Due to this, female students only comprised 43 percent of students in rural secondary schools.
  3. In 2009 and 2010, although elementary and secondary schools were comprised of 52 percent boys and 48 percent girls, slightly more women attended university than men, with university enrollment consisting of 49 percent males and 51 percent females.
  4. Based on data from 2010, 7.2 percent of women aged 15 and older in Kosovo are illiterate, in comparison to 2.2 percent of men. In rural areas where literacy rates are lower, 8.7 percent of women and 2.8 percent of men are illiterate. This represents a significant improvement from 2005, however, when 14 percent of rural women were illiterate.
  5. Approximately 71 percent of all Kosovo children attended pre-primary education (for ages 5 through 6) in 2010, but by 2015 this percentage had risen to 81.3. However, poorer households and Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian families are less likely to send their children to pre-primary school.
  6. Grade 5 testing done in 2010 indicated that girls and urban students significantly outperformed boys and rural students. While the urban-rural divide in education access and quality is well-documented, reasons for girls attaining on average higher test scores is yet unknown.
  7. As of 2012, 62 percent of women and 37 percent of men had nine or fewer years of schooling and only 6 percent of women and 12 percent of men had a university degree.
  8. Overall, 99.6 percent of girls in Kosovo complete primary education and 99.3 percent of girls begin lower secondary school according to 2013-2014 UNICEF reports. However, only 85.5 percent of girls continue on to upper secondary school, as opposed to 89.6 percent of boys. These percentages have increased significantly since 2002, however, when 91.2 percent of girls attended primary school but only 54 percent received secondary education.
  9. Kosovo’s Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian populations, both men and women, are educated at lower rates than the Albanian and Serbian populations. While 91.6 percent of girls and 94 percent of boys from these communities enter primary school, only 72.2 percent of girls and 80.3 percent of boys finish. These percentages continue to decrease as the educational level increases, with 28.7 percent of girls and 37.3 percent of boys beginning upper secondary school.
  10. Poverty and safety concerns are the two primary factors that inhibit rural girls from obtaining an education. A survey from the early 2000s found that economic hardship, particularly in the aftermath of the conflict, was the most common reason for girls to not attend school. There was also little economic incentive for girls to attend school as female unemployment in rural areas was ninety-nine percent. Additionally, students often lived far away from the schools, making it potentially unsafe for them to walk miles by themselves, especially during the winter.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kosovo help illuminate the progress the country has made, but also the work that still needs to be done, namely decreasing urban and rural disparities, as well as ethnic inequalities in education. Keeping girls in school through upper secondary education is also a concern that needs to be addressed, although the higher rate at which women are attending universities suggests that education for girls and women in Kosovo is becoming more accessible overall.

– Sara Olk
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