Macedonia's Housing Crisis
Macedonia’s housing crisis requires swift attention. In 2018, about 21.9% of the country’s population was living below the poverty line. With a population of 2,082,957 in 2018, more than 456,000 people living in Macedonia were experiencing poverty that year. Furthermore, Macedonia saw an unemployment rate of 17.76% in 2019, a rate which is more than double the national average of 7.04%. The collapse of state-run housing development organizations in Macedonia since its independence has led to about 15% of Macedonians living in “illegally constructed buildings.” This means that roughly 320,000 people living in Macedonia lack access to adequate housing.

Invisible Homeless

The unauthorized housing that many people in Macedonia must live in bars thousands from access to important social systems and tools. Since Macedonians require an official home address to obtain a legal ID, the state effectively renders many of them nonexistent. This prevents these people from utilizing such essential services as insurance, social safety nets and immunization services.

Macedonia’s housing crisis is also a health crisis. Without adequate housing, hundreds of thousands of Macedonians are at risk of injury and disease due to hazardous living conditions. In 2018, fewer than a third of Macedonians had thermal insulation systems in their places of residence. Inadequate heating and insulation in buildings have forced thousands of people living in Macedonia to use homemade fires to keep warm since they cannot afford the expensive heating bills otherwise necessary to heat their homes. In the capital city of Skopje, roughly “two-thirds of households use firewood as their primary source of heating,” according to the Financial Times. Without proper air circulation, this can lead to severe chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease due to inhalation of the hazardous particles which such fires produce.

Habitat for Humanity and Roma SOS

While Macedonia’s housing crisis is a daunting problem, some are doing significant work to improve housing in impoverished Macedonian communities. Despite being an attractive country for foreign investment due to its low tax rates and free economic zones, Macedonia still has one of the lowest foreign investment rates among European countries. This can make it harder for the government to provide solutions.

A Macedonian-based organization called Roma SOS is working to improve the living conditions of those experiencing the most need in Macedonia. The organization is currently working with Habitat for Humanity to provide impoverished Macedonians with zero-interest loans for legalizing and renovating their homes. While Habitat for Humanity provides the funding for these loans, Roma SOS helps residents in navigating the legal process of receiving approval for their loans.

Since 2004, Habitat for Humanity has worked to improve affordable housing for the people of Macedonia, and in 2019 it served 4,245 individuals “through market development.” Habitat for Humanity has further worked to provide individuals in Macedonia with housing that is not only affordable but also energy efficient. Since beginning this project in 2010, it has worked to restructure more than 60 buildings to improve energy efficiency, which has saved Macedonia more than 7,910 MWh of energy usage annually. The loans that Habitat for Humanity provides are essential for giving impoverished people in Macedonia access to better housing. With these loans, Habitat for Humanity has made heating safer and more affordable for more than 1,000 families living in Macedonia.

On the Path to EU Membership

Macedonia’s government also appears to be taking steps towards increased funding for improved housing. Macedonia has recently signed a deal with Greece and is currently on its way to becoming a member of the E.U. By joining the E.U., Macedonia would see an increase in foreign investment and would be able to apply for crisis aid packages to help improve housing in its impoverished communities.

The country’s housing situation may look bleak, but there is significant work occurring to address Macedonia’s housing crisis by improving the country’s economic situation. Several organizations, both outside of Macedonia and within it, are providing poor Macedonian populations access to safe, legal housing. With Macedonia moving towards E.U. membership and its accompanying economic support, there is hope for thousands of people in Macedonia whose living conditions formerly seemed hopeless.

Marshall Kirk
Photo: Pixabay

Psychiatric hospital Skopje, Macedonia
Healthcare in Macedonia utilizes a mixture of a public and private healthcare system. All residents are eligible to receive free state-funded healthcare and have the option of receiving private healthcare for treatments that the public system does not cover. Public healthcare in Macedonia often comes with long wait times and although public hospitals have basic medical supplies, they do not have specialized treatments. For these specialized treatments, residents typically seek private treatment where they must pay out of pocket or buy private insurance on top of their free healthcare.

Improvements in Overall Health

North Macedonia did not become a part of NATO until 2019, and still has not received admission into the E.U. As a result, its healthcare system has developed slower than member countries. Despite this, North Macedonia has shown growth in overall health. The introduction of private healthcare allowed residents to seek a wider range of treatments and cut down wait times. Life expectancy has grown from 71.7 years in 1991 to 75.1 years in 2010. However, this is still lower than the E.U.’s average life expectancy which is 80.2.  Although life expectancy has grown, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate is still above average.

North Macedonia reached a European record of 14.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. To compare, the average mortality rate in Europe for 2015 was 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. The high infant mortality rate is likely the result of outdated equipment at public health facilities and a shortage of qualified health workers. Only 6.5% of North Macedonia’s GDP goes towards healthcare, and therefore healthcare in Macedonia is often reliant on outside donations. These conditions have caused health workers to leave the Macedonian healthcare system in search of better working conditions. The health ministry has worked to purchase new equipment as well as increase the amount of qualified staff in public hospitals by hiring more workers. Today, the infant mortality rate in North Macedonia is 10.102 deaths per 1,000 births. This is an improvement, and hopefully, with continued programs, the numbers will continue to decrease. Organizations such as Project HOPE and WHO have already made a direct impact on Macedonia’s healthcare system.

Organizations Combating Infant Mortality

Project HOPE has donated over $80 million worth of medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment to hospitals throughout North Macedonia since 2007. Starting in 2017, most of these donations went to hospitals specializing in infant care. Project HOPE also provides training for healthcare workers so they can adapt to the updated equipment. The current drop in the infant mortality rate is due to these donations that allow hospitals to buy updated equipment and retain healthcare workers through training. There is only one hospital in North Macedonia that accepts low birth-rate and premature babies, University Clinical Center at Mother Theresa. Therefore, Project HOPE’s donation has greatly lessened the burden on this hospital to care for infants. Since Project HOPE implemented this program, the number of deliveries at Mother Theresa has increased by 40%.

WHO has also assisted North Macedonia in developing a new 2020 healthcare plan for infants and mothers. This plan would link healthcare facilities in the country and classify them by level of service to ensure everyone is receiving the appropriate care. It should also improve transportation between hospitals to increase the continuity of care between locations. This shared communication and learning between healthcare facilities is imperative since there are only nine hospitals in Macedonia for 2.08 million people and seven of those hospitals are in the country’s capital, Skopje. Increasing transportation and communication will ensure that those living outside of the capital are receiving quality healthcare. Slowly but surely with these new policies in place, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate will continue to drop.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr

food waste in macedoniaNorth Macedonia, a small developing country situated North of Greece, has experienced impressive progress in addressing hunger within the country. For instance, The poverty rate in North Macedonia was 27% in 2010. By 2017, that number reduced to 22%. Further, in 2019 Macedonia’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was 5.6, a relatively low level of hunger. Unfortunately, high levels of food waste in Macedonia have limited progress towards completely eradicating poverty and hunger in the region.

Are the Programs Working?

People continue to have severely limited access to nutritious food in the country despite the recent progress made in reducing poverty. The GHI found that 5-10% of the childhood population under the age of five experienced stunting in the form of impaired growth and development, a common indicator of undernourishment. In addition, one in five Macedonians continues to struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. The Macedonian government pointed to food waste as being a relevant contributor to the level of hunger in North Macedonia.

According to the World Bank, globally, people waste one-third of food. For developing countries, waste is largely due to poor infrastructure and storage. In North Macedonia, 40% of solid waste comes from food, accounting for a staggering 100,000 tons of waste. Agricultural surpluses create the majority of waste. This leads to decreased access to nutritious foods, lower incomes for actors in the value chain, and increased food prices for consumers. These all negatively impact those living in poverty, and further, may potentially lead to an increase in hunger in North Macedonia.

Is There a Solution to Food Waste?

Food waste and support for eradicating global hunger is on the rise. An apparent solution to the problem would be to redistribute food waste to those at risk of hunger. The Fund for Innovation and Technological Development has teamed up with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to address these redistribution efforts. The organization has provided support to the Let’s do it North Macedonia association to address sustainable solutions for food waste in Macedonia. People in need are receiving the redistribution of food surplus through the Everyone Fed program. This is happening in Skopje, Kumanovo and Prilep. The program has supported 10,000 people in need, including the provision of over 550,000 meals.

The Let’s do it North Macedonia association has successfully advocated for the passage of the Food Surplus Donation Law. The association is currently advocating for the creation of the first National Food Loss and Waste Prevention Strategy. These measures will help further mitigate food waste in Macedonia and contribute to the alleviation of hunger. In addition to redistributing food waste, the waste can be reduced through investments in infrastructure, as recommended by the NGO Ajde Makedonija. At the international level, the FAO is supporting smallholders and family farmers in Macedonia to overcome insufficient agricultural infrastructure which may further alleviate hunger. By eliminating food waste in Macedonia through innovative measures, such as the redistribution of surplus food, the Macedonian economy could save an upwards of $1 million a year. People could, in turn, repurpose these savings to further address poverty and hunger in Macedonia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

North MacedoniaThe historical town of Skopje, North Macedonia (pictured above) may soon see an economic boom. The recently named North Macedonia commits to achieving the economic goals set in place to join the European Union. Furthermore, a recent parliamentary majority win by the Social Democratic Union Party promises to open trade throughout the country and improve the lives of North Macedonia’s diverse population.

Historical Disputes & Political Corruption

Skopje shares a long-standing history with the bordering country of Bulgaria and celebrates the same national heroes as well. Bulgaria, a current EU member, seeks to compromise on these issues before North Macedonia is allowed to enter the EU, claiming, “… [Bulgaria] has been piling pressure on Skopje for concessions with regard to what the two sides now call ‘shared history.”’

Since the Social Democratic Party’s majority win, the leftist party known as Levica promises to fight against the recognition of Kosovo and new trade agreements with Greece. Levica is asserting pressure on the majority party with claims of political corruption and embezzlement from former leader Nikola Gruevski. However, new laws adopted as preconditions to enter the EU include a crackdown on corrupt politicians and practices — ensuring that public prosecution and ethical legislation will remain protected in government spaces. Albanians represent the second largest ethnic group in North Macedonia but lack proper representation in government. Although the Democratic Union for Integration is largely Albanian, this ethnic population holds little power in parliament but great influence in public spaces as a majority vote.

North Macedonia Joins NATO

The goal of the Social Democratic Union Party, broadly speaking, is to improve the lives of citizens in North Macedonia. The party aims to achieve this through new agreements and membership with NATO. With their induction in late March 2020, the flag of North Macedonia now sways high in Mons, Belgium and Norfolk, Virginia — two Allied Command Headquarters. Jens Stolenberg, Secretary-General stated, “North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of thirty nations and almost one billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together.”

The Peace Corps in North Macedonia

International relations in North Macedonia continue to improve through a partnership with the Peace Corps. Since 2015, the population living on less than $5.50 per day has reduced by 8%. As a result of foreign investment through educational programs, improved housing infrastructure and healthcare — only 4% of North Macedonia’s population live on less than $1.90 per day.

Grant writing, funding from the E.U. and other independent organizations act as a liaison when government funding is not provided to rural towns. Through the Peace Corps, Northern Macedonians have the opportunity to learn English and engage in community-building activities. Some of these activities include business administration skills and special events, geared towards learning. The Peace Corps is not only interested in providing relief but also space for communities to incentivize growth and opportunity — with the ultimate goal being increasing education and employment rates.

The Macedonia Country Fund is another example of a Peace Corps initiative that supports sustainable projects for Northern Macedonia. “These projects focus on youth, education, community development, and people with disabilities.” Through partnership initiatives and foreign support, North Macedonia seems to be headed on an upward trajectory.

Natalie Williams
Photo: Flickr

Alleviate Poverty in North Macedonia
When Yugoslavia disintegrated in 1991, Macedonia became an autonomous nation. However, standards of living have significantly decreased since the country’s independence. Unemployment rates are consistently high, which has directly affected children across the nation. Approximately 6% of children work and 12% marry before turning 18. The child poverty rate is 27.1%, with those from a Roma background at a much higher disadvantage. Fortunately, international organizations and the government are working to eliminate child poverty in the nation. Here are four efforts to alleviate child poverty in North Macedonia.

4 Efforts to Alleviate Child Poverty in North Macedonia

  1. UNICEF Solutions: Child poverty in Macedonia is a pervasive issue: an excess of 100,000 children are still in states of deprivation. Poverty affects children on every level, which includes faltering health, child marriage, abuse and lack of educational success. For instance, 1 out of 10 children in Pelagonija is affected by poverty when compared to 1 out of 2 in the Northeast. Moving forward, UNICEF has outlined solutions to aid the effort to end child poverty. These include offering accessible health care at no cost and supplying quality education to all children.
  2. Prioritizing Children: More than 100,000 children across Macedonia, 28% of the country’s youth, are affected by poverty. In 2018, leaders from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, UNICEF and the World Bank, as well as child poverty experts convened to formulate solutions that would eliminate child poverty. They agreed that social reform must prioritize the children to fight against poverty. All families with minimal income received an education and child allowance, helping to provide children affected by poverty with the opportunity at an equal start.
  3. Inclusive Education: One out of 300 children living in poverty goes to preschool, while only two-thirds attend secondary education. North Macedonia’s education system is unsustainable due to a variety of factors. Low budgets, lack of ethnic integration among youth and limiting children who have disabilities are a few of the reasons education has fallen behind. In 2002, USAID implemented inclusive learning programs across all levels of education, which has helped children with disabilities and supported diverse ethnic integration.
  4. The Romani Children: The Romani population in Macedonia is estimated to be around 260,000 as of 2020. Moreover, 73% of Romani children who attend school never complete their education. Roughly 3 to 4 children per household are of age to go to school, yet the costs of sustaining schooling for this many children have become a financial burden. To help curb these rates, the Roma Education Fund, founded in 2005, has been focusing on education reform for the Roma communities across Macedonia. It offers young Roma people living in Macedonia scholarships to assist with primary and secondary education.

These four efforts show the nation’s determination to support children in need, and, more broadly, to shift Macedonia from an impoverished nation to one of prosperity and equality. The success of these reforms will depend on governmental spending, as well as programs supported by nonprofits and international organizations. Moving forward, alleviating child poverty in Macedonia must continue to be a priority.

Michael Santiago
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Girls' Education in Macedonia
The Republic of North Macedonia, commonly referred to as Macedonia, is a republic in the Balkan Peninsula. After the country’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia had a tumultuous relationship with Greece. Macedonia became a U.N. member in 1993, and in 1995, Greece and Macedonia agreed to ease tensions in their relationship. After Macedonia’s 29 years of existence as a nation, girls’ education in Macedonia is coming into the spotlight as part of the country’s initiative to improve its education system. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Macedonia.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Macedonia

  1. Mandatory Education: Both primary and secondary education is mandatory in Macedonia. Primary education lasts for nine years for all children aged 6 to 15. Secondary education lasts for four years for teenagers aged 15 to 19 for both general and vocational education. General secondary education is compulsory between the ages of 6 to 19 and 6 to 17, and vocational training is compulsory for ages 17, 18 or 19.
  2. Decentralized Education System: The education system in Macedonia is decentralized. Except for the secondary schools in Skopje, the capital, Macedonia’s decentralized education system places both the administrative and financial responsibilities of public education in the hands of local governments. The national government provides financial resources for education in each municipality, and local municipality councils are responsible for distributing these resources.
  3. Roma Girls: Early marriage makes Roma girls’ education in Macedonia more challenging. The Romani people, commonly called Roma, are one of the ethnic minorities in Macedonia. In 2002, an estimated 2.7 percent of the Macedonian population was Romani. USAID reported that Roma girls are especially vulnerable to early marriages. This results in lower school-completion rates compared to other ethnic groups in Macedonia.
  4. Roma Women’s Illiteracy: Illiteracy among Roma women is high. UNICEF’s 2013 report highlighted illiteracy among Roma women as one of the key education issues in Macedonia. This Romani education issue parallels with Macedonia’s gender discrimination issues. In 2013, UNICEF stated that only 77 percent of Romani women were literate. The report attributes this to their 86 percent primary school enrollment rate.
  5. Gender and Socio-Economic Situations: Gender, socio-economic situations and race play a role in girls’ education in Macedonia. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that in 2011, the NAR (net attendance ratio) of Roma girls rose from 21 percent to 35 percent. This rise is still a lackluster number of enrollments compared to the 85 percent NAR of Macedonian and Albanian children. This 35 percent NAR showed that the lowest attendance was in both extremely poor and extremely wealthy families. Nearly 60 percent of Romani children did not attend secondary school. This lack of secondary education attendance is the root cause of the continuing cycle of unemployment and social exclusion.
  6. Girls in Rural Areas: USAID’s Gender Analysis Report found that 31 percent of girls in Macedonia between the ages of 14 to 15 do not continue their education after primary schooling, and this is especially in rural areas. In rural areas, 42 percent of secondary school-aged children are out of school. To remedy this, USAID recommends the Macedonian government target girls and boys in rural areas with a high population of ethnic minorities when planning their education projects.
  7. Increasing Girls’ Education: Girls’ education in Macedonia is on the rise. UNESCO’s country profile of Macedonia noted an upward trend in Macedonian children’s participation in education. True to the trend in the data, girls’ education in Macedonia is on the rise along with the general education ratio in the country. Compared to 2009, when 4,862 girls were out of school, there were only 2,927 children who were out of school in 2019.
  8. Inclusive Education: The Macedonian government is striving to improve inclusive education. Inclusive education aims to provide quality education to all children regardless of their gender, socio-economic background, disability or race. Working closely with UNICEF and the OECD, the Macedonian Ministry of Education and Science is training teachers according to the inclusive education guidelines provided by UNICEF.
  9. The Macedonian Government’s Commitment: The Macedonian government has committed itself to the improvement of access to quality pre-primary education. The Macedonian government committed to improving and expanding access to pre-primary school education in the country because around 61 percent of pre-primary aged children do not attend preschools. In April 2019, Mila Carovska, Minister of Labor and Social Policy, told UNICEF that her ministry’s budget for capital investment increased by 300 percent, which shows the Macedonian government’s commitment to the project.
  10. Girls Versus Boys: According to the OECD’s 2019 of review and assessment of North Macedonia’s education system, girls in Macedonia are outperforming boys in school. According to the report, Macedonian girls are outperforming boys by 20 score points in science and seven score points in mathematics.

While there is certainly room for improvement in girls’ education in Macedonia, it is clear that the Macedonian government is taking steps toward improving education. Girls’ education in Macedonia is not a singular issue of gender discrimination. Rather, it is a diverse issue that has its roots in socio-economic backgrounds and race of the girls in Macedonia. With the help of international groups such as OECD and UNICEF, the Macedonian government is improving the education of girls.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Macedonia
North Macedonia is a landlocked country in the Balkan Peninsula, home to 2.074 million people. Macedonia has struggled with poverty for many years, and while some problems still linger, citizens have been making great leaps in technology, security and medicine to increase the country’s average life expectancy.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Macedonia

  1. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, the average life expectancy in Macedonia is 75.9 years. In 2018, males lived an average of 73.8 years while females lived for around 78.2 years.
  2. In 2015, 21.5 percent of all Macedonians lived below the poverty line. Poverty has a direct link to life expectancy and one can see this all around the globe, even in the United States. In 2018, The Independent reported that U.S. citizens living below the poverty line died almost 10 years younger than the rich and found that those living in poor sectors showed a higher death rate due to illness.
  3. The main causes of death in Macedonia are stroke and heart disease, with strokes causing 23.3 percent of deaths and heart disease causing 20.5 percent of deaths in 2010. This is an almost 10 percent rise from the rate in 1990 when there was a 16.6 percent mortality rate for stroke and a 14.8 percent mortality rate for heart disease. In recent years, the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE) and other health organizations have been providing free screenings to determine a patient’s risk of stroke and established four stroke units around the country in order to combat this epidemic.
  4. Deaths due to tuberculosis have decreased to less than 20 percent of the rate in 2000, dropping from five out of 100,000 citizens to one out of 100,000 citizens. The World Health Organization also reported an 88 percent success rate in tuberculosis treatment in 2016. This change is due to more efforts to provide necessary medication to those afflicted and is likely responsible for the increase of the average lifespan of Macedonian citizens.
  5. In 2018, there was a 12 percent increase in murders, a 21 percent increase in attempted murders and a 31 percent increase in acts of violence, according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council. Poverty and crime correlate, so it is likely that Macedonia’s poverty rate and crime rate are connected. While there have been improvements in quality of life, a rising crime rate, especially in violent crimes, may cause an unnecessary drop in the average Macedonian’s lifespan.
  6. UNAIDS reports that the amount of people living with HIV in Macedonia has increased from around 250 in 2013 to more than 500 in 2019. As the number of people living with HIV has increased, UNAIDS has been making efforts to increase treatment. Starting in 2010, UNAIDS has implemented antiretroviral therapy to more and more citizens as the rate of affliction has risen. Due to these efforts, UNAIDS treated over 50 percent of the afflicted population in 2018, and the amount of AIDS-related deaths per year remains under 100 to this day.
  7. Macedonia suffers from heavily polluted air. In 2018, Macedonia’s two biggest cities, Tetovo and Skopje, reported air pollution indexes of 95.57 and 83.53 respectively. In contrast, New York’s air quality index stagnates between 40-45. Macedonia’s heavily polluted air has unquestionably affected the health of its residents, causing 1,469 deaths due to respiratory illness between 2015 and 2016. Recently, people like Gorjan Jovanovski have made great strides, who is a resident of Macedonia and developed an app to protect people from the densely polluted air. Jovanovski’s app draws information from air quality measuring stations around Macedonia and reports the air quality of the users’ general area based on readings from the nearest station.
  8. The CIA reports that people use North Macedonia as a hotspot for illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine to pass through from Asia and Europe. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that Macedonia suffered 14 drug-related deaths in 2011 and 18 in 2012. Reports also say that there were 47 cases of drug-related infectious diseases between 1987 and 2004. These diseases and deaths could be a strain on the average life expectancy in Macedonia.
  9. In 1990, UNICEF reported that the infant mortality rate in Macedonia was 36.7 deaths per 1,000 lives births, usually due to preventable diseases or injuries. In 2019, the rate is only 13.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. This steep drop in child mortality is due to the implementation of more in-depth medical practices. In 2017, 93 percent of children that supposedly had pneumonia went to a health care provider, 91 percent of all infants received three doses of DTP vaccine and 97 percent of children received a second dose of the measles vaccine.
  10. Unclean water has a direct link to the health and life expectancy of those who drink it. UNICEF estimated that, globally, 2,000 children die due to diseases that spread through unclean water sources. In 2013, the World Health Organization began an initiative to improve Macedonia’s drinking water and sanitation, after reporting that the country was disposing of most of its wastewater into its rivers and lakes. In 2015, North Macedonia reported that 99.4 percent of its citizens had access to clean drinking water.

Altogether, life expectancy in Macedonia is well within the world average. While there are still changes that the country could make, the quality of life has only gotten better in recent years. Macedonians have clean drinking water, few deaths due to AIDS and some citizens are even working to combat the pollution in the air to provide a better future for them and their country.

Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Macedonia
Macedonia is a small country, only slightly larger than the state of Vermont, located in Southeastern Europe, Balkan to be precise. Often overlooked by major world powers, Macedonia has a population of only 2.07 million but boats a rich and ancient history, similar to that of Greece. In the text below, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Macedonia are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Macedonia

  1. Macedonia’s population includes a large minority of Romani people, also known as Roma or Gypsies. The Roma often face discrimination and underrepresentation and are often unable to get public sector positions. In 1994, the Macedonian government included the Roma language in its census, and in 1996, four primary schools included the Roma language in their curriculum. Roma representation in government improved by 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent from 2000 to 2010. After a demonstration on the streets of Skopje, the country’s capital, there are now more than 500 Roma students in universities and 50-60 young adults with a college degree.
  2. Almost 15 percent of Macedonia’s population, mostly Roman, lives without legal homes, which means that they do not have access to basic services, such as water or electricity, or even an official ID. Without an ID, these people cannot get insurance, social protection or immunization. Local organizations such as Roma SOS partner with nonprofit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, to help people get micro-loans and understand the legalization process.
  3. Since Macedonia gained its independence in 1991, there has been a debate with Greece over the use of the name Macedonia. In January 2019, the Macedonian parliament has approved the name change to North Macedonia and are awaiting the vote of the Greek parliament to make the name official. This name change will bring the country closer to membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). As a member of NATO, Macedonia would have assured security and further resources to improve the lives of their citizens.
  4. Five percent of Macedonian children are not attending primary school and 32 percent are not attending secondary school. Poverty often affects children’s school attendance. Thirteen percent of children in the poorest quintile do not attend primary school, compared to almost no such cases in the richest quintile. The gap increases for secondary school as 64 percent of children in the poorest quintile do not attend them, compared to only 7 percent of children in the richest quintile. However, the completion rate for primary school is high, at 74 percent, with a 98 percent transition rate to lower secondary school.
  5. In 1996, Macedonia introduced Continuous Medical Education (CME) that creates health care guidelines and equips facilities. Currently, every citizen has access to primary care through the state. However, those living illegally would not have a state issued ID, thus no state health care. The state health care system that takes taxes from all people working and living in Macedonia, provides free preventive, diagnostic and curative medical services. This includes hospitalization and consultation with specialists and doctors. The private health care system is often too expensive for the average citizen, though it can provide better or quicker treatment and more medical options.
  6. The leading causes of death in Macedonia are circulatory diseases, that made up 57 percent of all deaths in 2004, malignant neoplasm, injuries/poisoning, respiratory diseases and diseases of the endocrine system. Macedonia’s average total life expectancy is five years less than that of countries in the EU and Macedonia’s healthy life expectancy is almost eight years behind that of Greece. These differences stem from a higher rate of cardiovascular diseases caused by high tobacco use, and uncontrolled hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.
  7. Unemployment in Macedonia is at its all-time lowest, dropping from 21.1 percent in June 2018 to 20.8 percent at the end of 2018. In comparison, unemployment in Greece was at 20.20 percent in April 2018. The average monthly wage for a Macedonian worker is $667.55. While Macedonia lags behind many of the U.N. countries, the country has improved in this field since the lowest monthly wage recorded was $370.96.
  8. In 2015, 21.5 percent of Macedonian citizens were living below the poverty line which put Macedonia in 80th place in a ranking of 139 countries. Families with five or more members, or almost 48.5 percent of Macedonians, are most affected by poverty. However, Macedonia has made progress with its market economy, and as the unemployment rate lowered, it pulled the poverty level from around 31 percent in 2011 to its current rate.
  9. Food and water supply in Macedonia is relatively good, as only 4 percent of the population struggles with undernourishment and 83 percent of the drinking water supply is considered safely managed. Agriculture accounts for 13 percent of the GDP in Macedonia. The government owns most of the pastures and farmland, manages and improves them through the Law on Pastures that regulates carrying capacity, drinking pools, construction of shelters, clearing of vegetation and more.
  10. In 2011, 1.8 percent of children were under the proper weight for their height, while 4.9 percent of children were under the proper height for their age and 12.4 percent of children were overweight. The Global Nutrition Report states that Macedonia experiences two main forms of malnutrition– overweight and anemia. About 23 percent of women suffer from anemia, which is a deficiency of red blood cells in the body. Though these issues exist, Macedonia has made progress to lower the overall undernourishment from 8 percent of the population to 4 percent.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Macedonia show that while the country faces many struggles with ethnic relations and political issues, it has also made significant progress within the last decade with improvements to health care and the economy. Macedonia has resolved its long-lasting name dispute with Greece and it is on the right track of joining NATO and EU, which will benefit all citizens of the nation.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr

International Education Programs in Macedonia
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or soon possibly known as Upper Macedonia, but most commonly referred to as just Macedonia, gained its independence from Yugoslavia peacefully in 1991.

Since independence, Macedonia has been trying to make a huge leap in development and join the European Union and NATO.

The biggest obstacle for the country’s EU and NATO membership has been the name dispute that arises from the ambiguity in nomenclature between the Republic of Macedonia and the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia.

However, this dispute has not stopped members of international bodies from supporting international education programs in Macedonia.

The United States and the European Union see education as an important step to both democratic and economic stability of the country.

For this reason, both bodies are sending aid in form of international education programs, while the country settles its naming dispute with Greece.

USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been supporting international education programs in Macedonia since 1993. USAID works directly with the country’s Ministry of Education and Science in order to improve education.

By improving education, USAID hopes to foster the fledgling democracy and promote inter-ethnic relations.

USAID programs have been most heavily aimed at children. From 2013 to 2018, USAID supported the Readers are Leaders Project. This project was focused on children in all primary schools across the country. Its aim was to strengthen literacy and numeracy rates among the youth.

Currently, several other projects, such as Children with Visual Impairment Project, are active. This project is run jointly with the International Lions Club. It was started in 2014 and will last to 2019. It works to increase the quality and accessibility of education services, provide individual support to children with visual impairments and facilitates early eye-screenings.

Another joint program underway is the Youth Ethnic Integration Project (2017-2022). Through this program, USAID is promoting both civic responsibility in youth but also a cultural understanding between Macedonia’s ethnic groups.

The Peace Corps

Since 1996,  when the first volunteers of this organization were welcomed by the Ministry of Education and Science, the United States Peace Corps has supported international education in Macedonia.

The Peace Corps education mission in Macedonia has been two-fold since the beginning. The first goal is to introduce new teaching methodologies to the Macedonian classroom at both the primary and secondary school levels. The second is to help with the instruction of English courses.

However, volunteers do not just stick to the classrooms for instructions of English language. They also promote and start English speaking clubs and organizations.

The Peace Corps developed English Language clubs, drama clubs and summer camps. The Peace Corps works with three Ministries of the country along with other international agencies and organizations to promote international education programs in Macedonia.

The European Union

The largest monetary contributor of development and international education programs in Macedonia is the European Union.

In 2017, the government of Macedonia and the European Union adopted a program of international development within Macedonia and signed a financial agreement.

The result is that the EU released $82.3 million worth of funds for the social and economic development of the country. These funds are only a small portion of the planned aid to Macedonia that stretches back to 2014.

The funds of EU are mostly directed towards the development of education in Macedonia. They are part of the financial assistance under IPA II agreement that totals to $757 million worth of aid to Macedonia. To ensure the funds are being used properly, the EU and Macedonia have set up joint monitoring committees to oversee their usage.

At the end of September 2018, the government of Macedonia held a referendum to change the official country’s name from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Upper Macedonia.

By changing the name of the country the Prime Minister hopes to speed up the process of joining NATO and the EU. His opponents see this as an appeasement to bullies.

Less than 50 percent of the total population voted in the referendum making it void, although the tally of those who did vote was nearly 90 percent in favor of the name change.

A trend showed the youth overwhelmingly supported the change. It shows that the work of international organizations on international education programs in Macedonia was efficient in showing the youth what needs to be done in order to help the country move forward.

Nicholas DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

U.S. benefits from foreign aid to MacedoniaSince it gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia has worked to become a stable democratic nation with a strong trade economy. Macedonia often struggles with being recognized or treated as an independent nation, a recent example being Greece’s demands for its constitutional name to be changed. Surrounded by more powerful countries, Macedonia requires steadfast support from its allies, which often comes in the form of foreign aid to help the country grow as a nation both politically and economically. The U.S. is one of these allies and has been supporting the country since it gained independence. Although America is keen on supporting countries moving towards democratic systems of government in general, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Macedonia as well.

One of the main goals of U.S. aid is to support Macedonia’s transition towards a market-oriented economy as well as its integration into the global trade economy, especially in the Euro-Atlantic. Trade between the U.S. and Macedonia in 2016 was around $276 million and is increasing every year. Electrical machinery and equipment have been the most popular U.S. exports to Macedonia, while imports from Macedonia to the U.S. focus on tobacco, apparel and metals such as iron and steel. The U.S. benefits not only from direct trade to Macedonia, but also through investment in its developing trade economy with other countries.

U.S. aid only helps to further bolster Macedonia’s improving trade economy through funding economic reforms and development, which not only improves direct trade to the U.S. but also increases the success of investments in the economy itself.

Trade is not the only improving economy in Macedonia. Recently, tourism has started to develop. Although in its infancy, contributing to 6.7 percent of the country’s GDP and employing only 1.6 percent of the country’s workers as of 2016, these numbers are expected to rise slowly but steadily. Tourism is also a very open market for foreign aid investment, with only about 2.4 percent of investment being in tourism. Considering that the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Macedonia going to other sectors, this could be yet another way to make aid more valuable to both countries by helping to better tourism in Macedonia, and in turn, providing profits for U.S. companies.

Lastly, keeping Macedonia as an ally gives the U.S. a valuable strategic partner for foreign policies and interests. Macedonia has often lent its airspace and provided troops to aid the U.S. as well as other countries in the U.N., such as for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In general, the location of Macedonia is strategic to many of the conflicts the U.S. is involved in as well as for the stability of the region.

With a stabilizing government growing more democratic through reforms as well as a growing economy, there are many ways in which the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Macedonia financially, and with continued support, these benefits will increase for both countries. If the U.S. continues to be a dependable and helpful ally to Macedonia, it will return the favor as it has throughout its relationship by helping the U.S. and U.N. create stability in the region.

– Keegan Struble

Photo: Flickr