Post War Struggles: Poverty in Bosnia-Herzegovina

In 1992, a major conflict developed within Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbians and Croatians living in Bosnia hoped to make the country a part of their own. Led by Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbians and Bosnians raged a violent war, resulting in over 100,000 lives lost. Years later, the remnants of the war are still inflicting damage on the citizens of Bosnia.

In total, 100 billion United States dollars worth of damage was inflicted on the country during the three-year war. Nearly half of the Bosnia-Herzegovina population fled the country following the war. This impact has been significant, making BH one of the poorest countries in Europe.

The majority of the poverty resides in rural areas, where the failures of the market economy have become evident. The damage from the war had a profound impact on the Bosnian farmers. Nearly ninety percent of their livestock were killed in the struggle and over half of their assets lost. These misfortunes have resulted in an extremely high unemployment rate. For farmers in an area where cultivation and agriculture is already difficult to make a living off of, these blows have been crippling.

Another reason for the high poverty rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the focus on post-war reconstruction. The majority of the areas that received support and rebuilding were the highly populated urban areas of the country. This left the citizens residing in rural areas, which make up the majority of the population, on their own.

The post-war poverty struggles have had the most significant impact on the women of Bosnia. Unable to form working skills and lacking the same civil rights as men, many women have become susceptible and vulnerable to prostitution and trafficking. The impact on women has severely affected Bosnian families. The amount of households headed by a woman has increased by one to four following the war. These women are often unable to obtain suitable incomes to support their children.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is a perfect example of the long-term impacts war can have on an economy and a society. They continue to try to lift themselves out of the devastation today.

– William Norris

Sources: Rural Poverty Portal, Mtholyoke.edu
Photo: A Woman’s War