Serbia’s cash incentivesIn May 2021, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić announced a new incentive for Serbians to get their COVID-19 inoculations: cash payments. Each fully vaccinated person would receive 3,000 Serbian dinars, equivalent to about $30 in the United States. The policy, aimed at incentivizing Serbs to get vaccinated, may also play a major role in reducing poverty in Serbia. Serbia’s cash incentives to encourage vaccinations have inspired other countries to follow suit with similar strategies.

Poverty in Serbia

Serbia is one of Europe’s most impoverished countries. In 2017, the poverty rate stood at 19.30%. In 2020, the unemployment rate was around 9%, a drastic decline from its peak of 24% in 2012. Poverty rates are particularly high in the rural and southern regions of the country. In an environment of widespread poverty, $30 is a significant incentive that “equates to around 5% of the country’s average monthly salary.”

How Cash Incentives Can Reduce Poverty

Serbia’s cash incentives could be an effective way of reducing poverty. A 2019 study in Kenya showed that cash transfers to impoverished families had a significant impact not only on the recipients but on the entire local community. The study found that each dollar of aid increased economic activity in the region by $2.60. President Aleksandar Vučić’s cash incentives might provide a similar economic boost in Serbia’s cash-poor economy.

Cash Payments Boost Vaccination Rates

The advantages of Serbia’s cash incentives are far-reaching. By providing a strong monetary incentive, the Serbian government increased the number of people who chose to get vaccinated. The public health benefits of a vaccinated country are obvious, but a vaccinated county will also boost Serbia’s economy. Economists universally agree that vaccination programs will add billions of dollars to the global economy within the next few years.

The World Economic Forum states that by ending the pandemic, “10 major economies could be $466 billion better off by 2025.” With vaccinations, workers will be able to resume their everyday jobs, businesses can reopen and the economy can flourish. Greater wages will mean greater prosperity for everyone. Due to these economic benefits, Serbia’s vaccination program will likely pay for itself many times over.

Cash Payment Successes

Serbia’s cash incentive strategy may already be paying off. As of August 4, 2021, almost 40% of Serbia’s population is fully vaccinated, significantly more than the majority of Serbia’s Balkan neighbors. Neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina has only a 7% vaccination rate, and Bulgaria, only 15%. Perhaps these countries, both of which have their own poverty problems, would benefit from Serbia’s vaccination strategy.

Serbia is not the only country to offer rewards for COVID-19 inoculations. In neighboring Romania, Bran Castle offered visitors free admission if they came to receive their shots. Additionally, the U.S. state of West Virginia offered $100 awards to anyone getting a vaccine. Vaccination will allow an individual entry into lotteries where participants will have the chance to win cars, scholarships and even a million-dollar grand prize.

Serbia’s program, however, is one of the first and most ambitious programs to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations. With a cash incentive strategy, Serbia demonstrates how a single action can provide several benefits, reducing poverty at the same time.

– Thomas Brodey
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccinations in SerbiaSerbia, a country located in Europe, has seen success when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine statistics, approvals and productions. The Serbian government is providing incentives to encourage citizens to get vaccinated with the aim of increasing vaccination rates. The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia indicates a positive upturn in Serbia’s fight against the virus.

Vaccine Statistics in Serbia

Serbia’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign has been successful so far as more than 38% of Serbians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 5, 2021. So far, the government has administered more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia. According to the latest COVID-19 statistics from Reuters, Serbia is experiencing roughly 114 new daily infections, equating to 11 positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people tested. During the last officially reported week, Serbia reached a daily average of more than 10,000 administered COVID-19 vaccinations.

Pfizer Vaccine Approval for Children

Serbia’s medical agency now allows children between the ages of 12 and 15 to receive the Pfizer vaccine. The Medicines and Medical Devices Agency of Serbia approved this after carefully considering the research of many clinical trials conducted in other nations. Serbian government health official, Mirsad Djerlek, says children with underlying health conditions are a priority as they are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

Vaccine Incentives

Serbia’s initial intention was to have half of the population vaccinated by the end of June 2021. Data indicates that Serbia did not reach this goal, but nevertheless, Serbia is still reaching a significant number of people with its vaccination campaign.

To encourage citizens to get vaccinated, President Aleksandar Vucic promised that citizens who got vaccinated before the end of May 2021 would receive a cash incentive of $30. Vucic’s expectation was to have three million people vaccinated by the end of May 2021. Serbia has made vaccination sites more accessible with locations in shopping malls. To further boost vaccination rates, Serbia announced that it would also be offering vouchers to those who get vaccinated.

Partnering with Russia

Serbia has partnered with Russia to ramp up Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine manufacturing. In June 2021, Serbia’s Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera “Torlak” in Belgrade began production. President Vucic and Russian President Vladimir Putin came to this agreement while acknowledging the importance of collaborative efforts in fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccine Successes

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia, the country has seen success so far. Serbia is getting close to vaccinating half of its population. More categories of the population are now eligible for the Pfizer vaccine and Serbians are receiving incentives to encourage vaccinations. Serbia is also giving a helping hand to other countries by providing vaccine donations to several countries. In May 2021, Serbia donated 100,000 vaccines to the Czech Republic, among other donations. As a production site for Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, Serbia is certainly playing a significant role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chloe Moody
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Serbia
As the Hungarian migrant crisis rages on, migrants and refugees living in Serbia face dangerous conditions in the Serbian winter. Currently, 100 people a day are attempting to get to Hungary from bordering countries such as Serbia and Romania. Many migrants, fleeing wars from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, come in masses to the border to Hungary. There, the country is now erecting a massive fence along its Serbian border.

Between January and July 2020, official records state that 90,000 refugees moved into Serbia and another 103,000 moved into Hungary. The European Union estimates that many more are still undocumented. Hungarian border police are calling this movement a new “migrant surge.”

Hungary’s Borders to Migrants

Hungary has been building its 13-foot high razor-wire fence since the migrant crisis of 2015 when more than a million migrants arrived in Central Europe. According to The New York Times, some see the fence as “a very physical manifestation of the quandary of the migration crisis and the lack of cooperation among European Union nations as they struggle to deal with it.” Hungary has defined this issue as a “state of migrant emergency,” since approximately 400,000 migrants crossed its borders in 2015, a flux of numbers that have since slowed to a trickle.

Migrants often experience horror in the form of police brutality, with those in Hungary having to move back into Serbia. A 14-year old boy told BBC about how police beat him up near the Hungarian border, poured cold water on him and forced him to walk barefoot back into Serbia. Of these accusations, the Hungarian authorities responded to BBC, saying, “Hungarian police and soldiers are defending the Schengen border of the EU for the sixth consecutive year, legally and without violence, against illegal migrants arriving on the Balkan route.”

Refugees living in Serbia, awaiting an opportunity to move into Hungary, are living in dangerous conditions. Without access to food, water or heat, many of them find limited shelter in abandoned factories. In the small Serbian town of Subotica, 10 km from the Hungarian border, an estimated 500 men currently reside in unheated tents.

Father Varga

Among the gloom, a glimmer of hope exists for the migrants of Subotica. That hope comes in the form of Protestant pastor Tibor Varga, whom the migrants endearingly refer to as ‘Father Varga.’ Varga has been working with an Eastern European charity for four years. Through his work, he has helped refugees in Serbia gain access to necessary amenities. Daily, Varga brings bread, eggs and toiletries to the migrants. For years, Varga had been the only one assisting those in Subotica. The authorities there supplied only water during the heatwave of July and August in 2020.

During the cold Serbian winter, Varga also brings heating. He builds stoves for the migrants to keep warm out of old barrels in his garden. Varga makes more than three a day. He reinforces the base and walls of the barrel with roof tiles, which a mixture of sand and clay keeps in place. He also manually scrapes off the poisonous red paint from the barrels. Varga then loads each stove, approximately 66 pounds each, into his van. He then drives and delivers them to the migrant camps.

Love and Care

Varga explained that the Hungarian border fence is a cause for concern for refugees in Serbia. However, he said that “looking at the other fences around the world, you can say that these people are very determined to get through it. They have already been confronted with major problems in their lives.” Varga looks at his volunteer work as his Christian mission, saying “these people are desperately in need of help. I hope we can just alleviate this situation with love and care.”

Nina Eddinger
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Serbia's Technology Industry
Serbia’s technology industry is growing, and recently it received a ranking of the 40th globally in exporting software. The growth of this sector has improved the country’s economy. Additionally, students receive encouragement to participate in higher education, especially in computer sciences and engineering. The hope is that an increase of startup companies in the technology sector will continue to stimulate local economies and boost Serbia’s position globally.

Employment in Serbia

In 2018, Serbia had an unemployment rate of 14.8%, an increase from the past years. Furthermore, in 2016, the Serbian Statistical Office recorded a total youth unemployment rate of 44.2%. One of the reasons for these high rates is the education system. Despite having nearly a 90% graduation rate from high school, Serbia’s education does not provide the workforce with the proper tools to meet its economic needs.

These factors led to the National Employment Action Plan for 2020, which concentrated on youth employment and workers with lower educational levels. However, Serbia’s technology sector requires a significant number of highly skilled and educated professionals to further technological advances through knowledge and inventions. Since this sector is the most important in the country, the government is currently focusing on higher education in Serbia to produce more highly skilled workers, specifically software engineers.

The Education System

To support Serbia’s technology sector, the government has dedicated nearly $80 million to science and technology centers. Additionally, it plans to provide schools in Serbia with almost $85 million in funding for better internet connections and equipment such as computers and software.

The education system has already received credit for producing many software engineers in Serbia. Children start programming early, with computer science classes starting in fifth grade and continuing into high school. Also, students who wish to pursue an education in STEM have the opportunity to attend one of the 80 high schools in Serbia that specialize in computer science and electrical engineering. Every year, more than 3,300 software engineering students graduate from colleges in the country, and the number of graduates is increasing every year.

In 2019, Serbia’s economy grew by more than 4% but stagnated in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Serbia’s technology industry had more than 2,000 firms in 2017, a large increase from 700 in 2006. Furthermore, the industry revenue nearly doubled during that period. Google has started supporting Serbia by using its Google Developer Launchpad, which helps technology communities and startups in countries aiming to develop further.

Serbian Startups

Nordeus, a self-funded game developer, began in Belgrade, Serbia. Soon after, the company gained recognition for producing one of the most popular online sports games, which took in a yearly amount of $75 million. In addition, the startup Seven Bridge Genomics has raised more than $100 million and is bringing together scientists who research on finding therapies in order to cure cancers. The company employs the largest number of bioinformaticians in the world within the private sector. Additionally, the crowd-funded startup Strawberry Energy invented smart benches which provide Wi-Fi as well as outlets to charge your phone. Strawberry Energy started with benches in Belgrade but has already expanded into 17 countries.

Serbia’s technology industry has the potential to fight the country’s economic stagnation. Therefore, the government is supporting the technology and startup community with investments and improvements in the education system. Due to these measures, Serbia hopes to see a rise in employment and economic growth rates, hoping to lift people out of poverty in the country.

– Sarah Kirchner
Photo: Pexels

Serbian YouthBelgrade is Serbia’s capital, with a population of over 1.7 million people. With a 40% youth unemployment rate, large numbers of Serbs were forced to leave the country and search for work elsewhere. Unemployment in Serbia is significantly higher than the European average and one of the country’s significant economic challenges is the need for private-sector job creation. In the last 12 months, Serbia has had 62 startups with $0 in total funding. More than ever, the country is in need of a program like Impact Hub to help Serbian youth.

Impact Hub

Impact Hub was founded in London in 2005 and now has over 7,000 members in more than 60 locations, one of which is Belgrade. The program is funded by USAID and assists young innovators in accessing the tools they need to connect with investors because unsuccessful funding is the biggest obstacle for startups. On Impact Hub’s website, online visitors can become “Impact Angels” and invest in a startup in minutes.

Impact Hub assists in the development of new products and business models. The program focuses on technological innovators and entrepreneurs and the future of their businesses. The organization provides collaborative workspaces, program support, an inspirational environment and diversity.

Impact Hub Belgrade offers young entrepreneurs resources such as acceleration and connections to grow their business. It is both a community center and a business incubator. The program encourages the sharing and building of a community and the space in which the project operates is used to organize events, from arts and culture to entrepreneurship.

Guiding Young Entrepreneurs

Impact Hub founders believe talent allows for growth and production. Since many young people know how to code, design and create innovative solutions, Impact Hub aims at helping  Serbian youth grow their startups. The program secures investments and teaches young people about using money in competitive markets. Impact Hub wants to get young entrepreneurs out of their comfort zone to expand their network. There are two different paths that Impact Hub employees guide entrepreneurs through. The first is “Core Competence for Market Validation,” in which individuals learn how to get the first buyer, expand their customers and make financial projections. The second is “Growth Readiness” and focuses on profiling a buyer, expanding traction and creating revenue models.

Impact Hub Belgrade implemented an initiative called We Founders, in which startup teams, founders, leaders and business developers can connect and work to improve their businesses. Impact Hub helps form partnerships to allow people to share the risks and prepare together for possible losses.

Impact Hub is Positively Impacting

Participants of Impact Hub raised $230,000 in investments from the Serbian public sector and private investors, not including a $100,000 investment from Dubai’s Innovation Impact Grant Program.

Alongside USAID, Impact Hub Belgrade gives Serbian youth the chance to see their innovations and ideas come to life. Outside of Belgrade, Impact Hub is available worldwide to allow individuals the opportunity to receive education regarding the tools and skills necessary for creating a business.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

Youth in Serbia
Serbia is a European country that was formerly a part of Yugoslavia. Located in the West-Central Balkans, it is surrounded by Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia. The majority of the population is of South Slavic origin and they speak Serbo-Croatian, which is nearly the same language that the Croats, Bosniaks, and Montenegrins speak.

Over time, a majority of Serbia’s population migrated to the capital city Belgrade from more rural areas. As recently as 2018 however, 43.9% of the people in Serbia still lived in the countryside. In 1945, when the country was still part of the former Yugoslavia, Serbians were under a socialist economic system. Although some free-market characteristics were later adopted in 1948, there was still a large emphasis on socialist self-management.

Youth Unemployment

Today, the youth in Serbia have been consistently making efforts to promote and provide a platform for entrepreneurship among young citizens. Near Belgrade—which has been a center for innovation and entrepreneurship over recent years—is the Impact Hub Belgrade.

One problem affecting the economy in Serbia is related to job availability among young citizens. The unemployment rate among youth is 40%, so providing employment opportunities to these citizens would impact a large portion of the population that is struggling to enter the job market or start businesses.

As a result of poor job opportunities, large numbers of young Serbians leave Serbia in search of work elsewhere. If the youth had more accessible jobs and economic opportunities, it may be more compelling for them to stay and stimulate their own economy, as opposed to the economies of other countries.

Impact Hub

Impact Hub focuses on supporting young entrepreneurs by strengthening their networks with investors in order to attract their investments. This provides an economic foundation for businesses to operate and produce goods and services.

One of the programs initiated by Impact Hub was called the Launch Pad, which provided these young entrepreneurs not only with tools needed to create new products, but with training to broaden their business skills. In addition, the program helped the youth in Serbia develop business models and connect with investors at home and abroad. This program received grants from USAID to help with funding.

Even though the program has ended, it raised a total of $230,000 from the domestic public sector, as well as from the private sector both at the national and international levels. Investments continued, including a $100,000 fund from the Innovation Impact Grant Program in Dubai.

Continued Efforts and Progress

Serbia’s economic freedom score by 2020 has increased by 2.1 points, bumping it to 66.0, and it saw GDP growth as recently as 2018. Even though Serbia has faced numerous economic difficulties since its independence, there are efforts being taken by its citizens to drive and stimulate the economy. The youth in Serbia have especially taken notable actions and the country continues to be supported by the USAID and many other programs and countries domestically and internationally.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Pixabay

Youth Entrepreneurship in Serbia
Serbia is a southeastern European country with an upper-middle-income economy. It ranks relatively high on the Human Development Index (63rd), Social Progress Index (53rd) and the Global Peace Index (54th). However, the nation suffers from high unemployment, especially in the youth population: Serbia recorded a youth unemployment rate of 30.3% in 2019. The lack of entry-level jobs consequently drives many young Serbians to flee their home country in search of work elsewhere. However, USAID has invested in an inventive solution to this problem: initiatives to promote youth entrepreneurship in Serbia.

Impact Hub Belgrade—Fostering Youth Entrepreneurship

USAID’s most notable endeavor is Impact Hub Belgrade. Impact Hub is a USAID-funded global network focusing on establishing entrepreneurial communities in cities worldwide. Serbia’s Impact Hub is located in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital city. It specifically focuses on youth entrepreneurship, helping youth-led start-ups to attract potential regional and international investors. In particular, it helps hone and validate young entrepreneurs’ business models, providing them with the materials and skills needed to turn their ideas into reality. Insufficient access to finance is the number-one challenge young entrepreneurs face. Therefore, Impact Hub dedicates itself to eliminating this obstacle and creating boundless opportunities for young Serbians. The program celebrated its fifth anniversary in December 2019.

Impact Hub Belgrade also prioritizes gender equality in its work. While Impact Hub Belgrade has a special focus on youth, it also recognizes the unique barriers that young female entrepreneurs face. On its anniversary in December, Impact Hub launched Women Entrepreneurs (WE) Founders, the first Serbian female investment group dedicated to fostering and supporting gender-diverse entrepreneurial teams and companies. Some of its techniques include ensuring women have an equal role in decision making, building trusting relationships between men and women in the workplace and encouraging women to take leadership positions.

Junior Achievement

Junior Achievement is another USAID-funded entrepreneurial program. The program is a training curriculum with the intention of teaching Serbian high school students the essentials of entrepreneurship. These essentials include writing business plans, identifying product placement and forecasting earnings. It ensures Serbian high school graduates enter the job market with the technical skills necessary to successfully establish a business. And while Junior Achievement programs are present throughout Europe, Serbia’s is among the strongest; in 2018, Belgrade hosted the European Student Company Competition, where 39 student-led companies from across the continent convened to present their businesses to a jury of prominent Serbian entrepreneurs.

Non-Governmental Organizations

Non-governmental organizations also support young entrepreneurs. A notable example is Smart Kolektiv, an independent nonprofit organization with the stated purpose of promoting youth entrepreneurship in Serbia. Smart Kolektiv assists young entrepreneurs in establishing their businesses. Its hope is that Serbia’s youth will use their power to drive positive social change.

Success in Entrepreneurship

Young entrepreneur success stories abound across Serbia. One example of lucrative youth entrepreneurship in Serbia is Nikica Marinkovic’s Box System, an eco-friendly replacement for styrofoam designed to transport organic produce. Thanks to Impact Hub, Marinkovic gained funding from Austrian investors and U.S. markets that allowed him to expand his business.

Encouraging youth entrepreneurship in Serbia is just one way to encourage young Serbians to stay in their home country and fulfill their dreams. However, the popularity of these initiatives and their encouraging results also demonstrate that fostering youth entrepreneurship is a lucrative option for Serbia’s economy. Prosperous, youth-led operations continue to emerge throughout Serbia, from independent coffee shops to cutting-edge technologies.

Abby Tarwater
Photo: Flickr

hunger in Serbia
The Republic of Serbia, located in the Balkans region of Southeast Europe, has a population of approximately 7 million citizens and ranks 25 out of 117 qualifying countries struggling with hunger, per the Global Hunger Index. Hunger additionally coincides with low food security — a detrimental status that many inhabitants face due to lack of money for food or the absence of other resources for them to use as food. The United States Department of Agriculture defines low food security as the multiple reports of “reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet.” As Serbia’s persistent hunger crisis continues to affect its inhabitants, many will encounter illness and death because of the insufficient amounts of nutrition consumed. Here are five facts about hunger in Serbia.

5 Facts About Hunger in Serbia

  1. Global Hunger Index: Serbia has a Global Hunger Index (GHI) score of 6.5; a value that the country’s indicators of undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality determines. All of these variables factor into caloric deficiencies and poor nutrition statistics throughout the country. On the GHI Severity Scale, a score of 6.5 is considerably low.
  2. Malnourishment: According to Macrotrends — 5.7% of Serbia’s population had gone undernourished from 2016 to 2017. Those that the study accounted for did not meet the dietary energy requirements because of their inadequate food intake.
  3. Children: Children under the age of 10 are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and can suffer from being underweight and thin. According to a cross-sectional study in regard to hunger in Serbia by Cambridge University Press — Serbian school children (ages 6 to 9) attending schools without any health-focused educational programs were “1.57 times more likely to be thin than peers enrolled in schools with such programs.”
  4. Disease: Coronary heart disease and heart inflammation (also known as myocarditis) are the two leading causes of death in Serbia. A study that the Journal of Evolution of Medical and Dental Sciences conducted found a link between malnutrition and cardiac debility — especially in children. Those children experiencing malnourishment are likely to experience alterations to their body compositions as they mature, including a loss of skeletal and heart muscle mass as well as other cardiac abnormalities that electrolyte, mineral or vitamin deficiencies cause. In 2018, coronary heart disease contributed to 22.16% of total deaths in Serbia, while myocarditis contributed to 16.02% of total deaths.
  5. Dietary Assessment Tool: The Network for Capacity Development in Nutrition in Central and Eastern Europe and Balkan countries (NCDNCEE) created a dietary intake assessment tool to identify areas of hunger and challenges of malnutrition within the region. By utilizing pre-existing food composition databases, dietary studies and micronutrient suggestions — the Diet Asses & Plan (DAP) platform can identify any nutritional concerns within the region.

A Need for Strategic Intervention

As the issues of malnutrition and hunger in Serbia continue to affect the populace, the country’s overall health will continue to decline — unless the country devises and implements a premeditated plan of action. Despite the many hunger reduction and alleviation strategies that have emerged to aid in these issues, the Republic of Serbia still has ample room to enhance its citizens’ nutritional health and well-being for a much healthier future.

Isabella Socias
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in SerbiaAgainst a backdrop of poverty, unemployment, privatization and eviction, Serbia is facing a housing crisis. This widespread homelessness in Serbia disproportionately targets minority groups.

Poverty and Unemployment in Serbia

Homelessness in Serbia stems in part from the country’s poverty and unemployment rates. In 2013, a survey by The World Bank found that poverty threatened 24.5% of Serbia’s population. Recent economic recessions have highlighted joblessness as another major problem within the country, with the unemployment rate ranging from a high of 24% in 2012 to a recent low of around 12% in 2019. With many people out of a job and fighting to stay above the poverty line, homelessness looms as a real threat to Serbia’s people.

Serbia’s Housing History: Privatization and Eviction

The problem of homelessness in Serbia has been augmented by recent cuts in public housing. The privatization of housing in Serbia began with The Housing Law of 1992. The law disincentivizes the government from providing adequate public housing. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, there has since been a “virtual disintegration of state responsibility” for housing.

In 2016, another law worsened Serbia’s housing crisis. The Law on Housing and Building Maintenance, among other things, increased evictions. Evictions can catastrophically undermine human rights, especially when they threaten vulnerable communities. Before Serbia’s 2016 law was even enacted, Amnesty International called out its potential to “violate the rights of individuals and families in vulnerable communities at risk from forced eviction.”

This lack of public housing and frequent evictions have increased the threat of homelessness in Serbia. While the exact scope of the country’s situation is difficult to measure, the most recent census in 2011 estimates that around 20,000 people face homelessness in Serbia.

Vulnerable Communities: Refugees and the Roma People

When it comes to homelessness in Serbia, refugees are particularly vulnerable. Of Serbia’s refugee and internally displaced persons population, roughly 22% face poverty, placing these groups at a high risk of homelessness.

Additionally, Serbia lacks adequate space within refugee camps to shelter those coming into the country. Despite the large refugee population, the Serbian government provides sparse accommodations. In 2016, the Serbian government provided only 6,000 beds to asylum seekers, leaving many without shelter.

Another vulnerable group within Serbia is the Roma population. Low levels of education and high rates of poverty leave the Roma people struggling to afford private housing, while discrimination against them puts them at a disproportionate risk of eviction. Evictions of Roma people have become so targeted that the European Roma Rights Centre and Human Rights Watch sounded the alarm when, with little notice, 128 Roma people were evicted from their homes in Novi Beograd within one day.

Who Is Helping the Homeless?

There is good news. The Regional Housing Programme (RHP) is fighting homelessness in Serbia by providing housing for refugees. The organization has worked with over 7,000 housing units and, by 2019, had provided housing to 4,200 refugee families. On June 20, 2020, the organization celebrated World Refugee Day by moving 270 families into the RHP’s newly constructed apartment building in Belgrade. The organization’s work has gotten media attention in the form of a new film. “Here to Stay” describes RHP’s achievements and shares stories from the refugees who have found a home thanks to RHP’s help.

Another organization, Združena Akcija Krov nad Glavom (Joint Action Roof Over Your Head), is helping Serbia’s homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with providing housing accommodations, the organization delivers essential supplies such as food, protective masks and sanitizer to the homeless.

Organizations like these provide hope in Serbia’s fight against homelessness. In the face of the Serbian government’s lack of effort to provide clean and safe public housing to its people, these organizations are making a huge difference for the many people affected by homelessness in Serbia.

Jessica Blatt
Photo: Flickr

WASH in Serbia
Water pollution in Serbia is primarily caused by the inadequate discharge of wastewater. Unequal practices of waste removal disproportionately impact rural and Roma communities, as these groups tend to rely on wells and local waterways that are often exposed to industrial contamination. In fact, 22% of the Roma population does not have access to improved water sources, making them especially susceptible to waterborne diseases. Although there is still much work needed to ensure that everyone in Serbia has access to adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), the situation is far from stagnant. Here are nine facts about how WASH in Serbia is improving.

9 Facts About WASH in Serbia

  1. The OM Christian church started a non-governmental organization in 2014 to assist vulnerable populations in Serbia and other Mediterranean countries. As part of its religious beliefs, the church has enacted a variety of humanitarian work, including establishing adequate sanitation facilities.
  2. The Serbian government has implemented a national program dedicated to the improvement of WASH. Furthermore, the Republic of Serbia now recognizes WASH as a fundamental human right. Through their national program, the government implemented a variety of initiatives promoting hygiene in schools and health facilities. The government has also implemented long-term initiatives dedicated to the sustainability of water supplies.
  3. The United Nations Developmental Agency (UNDP) implemented the Protocol on Water and Health in 2013, which is currently active in 170 countries, including Serbia. Through this program, the organization aims to establish a variety of sustainable development goals in Serbia by 2030. Specifically, goal 6 of the program aims to provide clean water and improved sanitation facilities for all Serbians.
  4. In 2019, the European Investment Bank (EIB) gave a 35 million Euro loan to the Serbian city of Belgrade to fund improved sanitation and a wastewater treatment plant. The EIB has been supporting Serbia by loaning money for WASH development projects since 2000. This latest donation is expected to improve the living conditions of more than 170,000 people in the region.
  5. The KFW Development Bank is working to assist Serbia in funding a variety of infrastructural projects. Through their Financial Corporation, the bank is providing improved WASH facilities for 20 Serbian towns, which sustain a collective population of more than 1.3 million people. In early 2020, Belgrade constructed a water treatment plant through the KFW Development Bank’s funding.
  6. The European Union’s Water Framework Directive is working to improve water quality and ensure the proportionate distribution of water from the Tisza River, a major tributary of the Danube and one of the primary water sources for Serbia and four other European countries. The organization aims to carry out this project through a three-step initiative. These steps include traditional water resources planning, structured participation and collaborative computer modeling.
  7. USAID has been present in Serbia since 2001. In 2014, the organization donated $20 million to create a new reservoir in Preševo, which helped provide water to residents of this region.
  8. Serbia has been a member of the Open Government Partnership since 2012. The country has committed itself to be more transparent about its environmental information and budget allocations, which will promote accountability for the government to improve its water and sanitation facilities.
  9. Ecumenical Humanitarian, a Christian organization, has been assisting the Roma people, Serbia’s most vulnerable population, since 2007. The NGO has been working to build sustainable housing and sanitation units for this marginalized group.

Although there is still much progress to be made, the initiatives and improvements implemented over the past years demonstrate that there is hope for improved WASH in Serbia. Moving forward, these organizations must continue to make water and sanitation in the nation a priority.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr