Charities Operating in KosovoKosovo, the smallest country in the Balkans, ranks as “one of the poorest countries in Europe,” struggling with its newfound freedom since declaring independence from Serbia in February 2008. This partially recognized state is home to around 1.8 million people, but Kosovars continue battling for international recognition and an improved economic outlook. With its most recent data in 2015, the World Bank reports that the country has a 17.6% national poverty rate, significantly higher than many European counterparts. As the nation contends with more than 300,000 impoverished Kosovars, five charities operating in Kosovo are making a difference.

5 Charities Making a Difference in Kosovo

  1. Sunny Hill Foundation. Dua Lipa, a world-renowned singer and songwriter, established the Sunny Hill Foundation in 2016 to advance the quality of life for Kosovars. The organization based in Pristina, Kosovo, works to improve Kosovan society, focusing on helping the country’s most vulnerable residents. The Sunny Hill Foundation raises money to donate to local cultural institutions and NGOs, with a requirement of only contributing to volunteer-led organizations. In 2018, this charity contributed €100,000 to 17 local institutions with focuses ranging from educating special needs children to advancing artistic talent. As a result of Lipa’s efforts to support the nation through the Sunny Hill Foundation, in August 2022 she became an honorary ambassador of Kosovo.
  2. The Ideas Partnership. This is a volunteer organization established in 2009 that focuses on improving education in Kosovo. The organization generally focuses on vulnerable ethnic groups in Kosovo, namely the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. Completed projects include sending 10 blind children to learn Braille and providing a kindergarten education for 30 children. One ongoing project assists six families with access to nutritious food. Through its network of volunteers, the Ideas Partnership is advancing opportunities for minority communities in Kosovo to increase their quality of life.
  3. PL4Y International. Since 1999, PL4Y International has promoted youth engagement in sports to encourage educational attainment and spur societal change. The NGO has helped more than 500,000 children across 15 countries through its programs. In Kosovo, PL4Y International launched a project called “YOUth can change the future for Kosovo,” concentrating on bridging ethnic, religious and cultural differences in Kosovan society through child sports. As Kosovars struggle to overcome the lasting societal impacts of the Kosovan 1998-1999 conflict and the lingering uncertainty associated with the nation’s international status, PL4Y International is working to bring Kosovan youth together and build a more promising future.
  4. Action for Mothers and Children (AMC). Also known as Akcioni per Nena dhe Femije, AMC concentrates on improving maternal and child health in Kosovo. Since the organization’s founding in 2013, AMC has specialized in projects focusing on education, fundraising, research and advocacy. AMC successfully developed five Women’s Health Resource Centers in Kosovo, helping to educate thousands of women on their pregnancies, deliveries and newborns. In August 2016, AMC expanded its services to an online platform called Beba-ks, offering remote assistance in English, Serbian and Albanian to deliver evidence-based information to new and expecting parents.
  5. HALO Trust. Beginning in 1988, the HALO Trust has worked to unearth landmines and prevent fatalities in former war-torn communities. Because of the 1990s conflict between Yugoslav forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army, landmines and other unexploded ammunition remain buried throughout Kosovo, presenting a fatal threat to Kosovan communities. Since then, 580 people faced injuries and fatalities in Kosovo due to these remaining explosives, driving the HALO Trust’s mission to remove and dispose of these threats. These ready-to-explode landmines are especially dangerous for poor Kosovans in rural areas. Many farmers, for instance, risk their lives by simply going into a field to maintain their crops. Therefore, the work of the HALO Foundation in Kosovo is critical to improving the lives of impoverished Kosovars.

Looking Ahead

From sponsoring youth sports and opening centers for reproductive health to unearthing landmines, these charitable institutions are truly improving Kosovan society. These philanthropic organizations are helping Kosovo achieve a brighter future with less poverty and fewer societal divisions.

– Michael Cardamone
Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to Kosovo

In February 1998, the armed conflict between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) came to a head when Slobodan Milošević, the President of the FRY in the late 90s, responded to KLA guerilla operations with an increased intensity.

Following the FRY’s elimination of Kosovo’s semi-autonomous status, after they gained independence from the Soviet Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the KLA instigated a guerilla movement against the Serbs in the hopes that doing so would call international attention to their plight. Unfortunately, despite a clear degradation of political relations between Serbia and Kosovo, the international community failed to intervene with the speed and authority necessitated by the impending disaster.

Eventually, it became obvious that the time for diplomatic action had passed unheeded. The result was catastrophic. On the heels of an already displaced 400 thousand Kosovar Albanians and an estimated killing of 1,000 civilians by FRY forces, NATO opted to instigate a campaign in Kosovo that was at once, illegal and legitimate. Illegal in the sense of it never being approved by the U.N. and legitimate in that it was the only option available for the prevention of further human rights abuses in Kosovo.

The result of the infamous NATO Air Campaign in Kosovo, lasting between March 24 and June 10, 1999, and effectively ousting Serbian forces from the region, was the abrupt displacement of nearly 1.5 million individuals within Kosovo and into neighboring Albania and Macedonia.

The issue then became how so many innocent civilians were going to survive. The solution is the question of this article: What was the success of humanitarian aid to Kosovo? The answer concerning aid during the immediate crisis is that despite the unprecedented amount of relief aid thrown at the conflict, its implementation was haphazardly managed and ultimately far less effective than it should have been.

Humanitarian aid to Kosovo during and following the NATO Campaign was marred by a lack of collaboration between aid organizations – of which there were over 250 operating in Kosovo and Albania alone. As well as a seeming lack of professionalism among even the most seasoned aid agencies (UNHCR). One report evaluating the failures of their response, sights appointment of inexperienced staff to positions of leadership as one of the many problems that plagued the humanitarian response.

Today, more than 18 years after the beginning of the crisis, Kosovo has yet to rid its borders of the aid organizations that came during the war. The greatest problem facing Kosovars is unemployment which had reached 35 percent in 2016.

One of the ways the issue of unemployment is being addressed is through social enterprises. In Kosovo, these take the form of small businesses established by locals to provide basic necessities to the community. These types of programs are what many aid workers are turning to as they search for alternatives to the continued presence of large aid organizations in Kosovo.

The success of humanitarian aid to Kosovo can, more or less, be regarded as a failure given the continued need for aid nearly 20 years after the end of the war.

– Katarina Schrag

Photo: Flickr


Listing of Top Kosovo Diseases
Kosovo is a landlocked republic in southeast Europe that declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. As a new country, Kosovo struggled to establish a new healthcare system. National and international reports have shown that people of Kosovo are unsatisfied with healthcare services.

Here are the top Kosovo diseases:

  1. Tuberculosis
    Kosovo has one of the highest rates of TB cases in southeast Europe. The World Health Organization proposed a plan to Kosovo officials in April 2013. The plan includes the establishment of proper facilities for TB patients and operating procedures, accessible TB diagnosis and medicine, effective infection control, development of electronic database and adoption of progressive policies.
  2. Heart disease and cancer
    Tobacco use remains the leading avoidable cause of death in industrialized nations. In Europe, since the late 1970s, the proportion of smokers has dropped from 45 to 30%. However, in eastern European countries, and particularly in the Baltic states including Kosovo, smoking has continued to increase, particularly among young people and women. About 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases caused by cigarette smoking, also increasing the risk of heart diseases such as an aneurysm, heart attack, stroke, and vascular disease.
    The HIV epidemic in comparison to other Kosovo diseases is relatively small. In 2013, a total of 2,857 HIV tests were carried out on people based on the clinical indication or risk group, in contrast to the population of 1.8 million. However, there is no detailed information on the reasons for testing, nor is there any data collected on testing and risk groups. Around 65% of HIV-positive individuals refused to follow up diagnoses and treatment. Unfortunately, the governmental and societal effort to reduce HIV in Kosovo is at a very low level.

The Kosovo Federation of Health Syndicate is dedicated to developing the legal structure needed for further processing with health insurance law. Today, the majority of Kosovo inhabitants still consider health insurance as an expensive privilege and only 2% of the population is covered by private health insurance. Future healthcare reforms are aimed to prevent Kosovo diseases from spreading.

Yana Emets

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Kosovo Poor
With approximately 30 percent of the population living in poverty, it is no surprise that Kosovo was ranked as the third poorest European country. Nearly 10 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty, and there is a 57.7 percent unemployment rate among people ages 15 to 24. With all of this shocking information, one might be compelled to ask: why is Kosovo poor?

One significant reason is the distribution of the government budget. While the government spent a whopping 210.2 million euros on roads in 2016, only 180.5 million euros went toward health and welfare. By prioritizing road development, Kosovars were left to pay for most of their medical needs. With the weight of their medical problems resting on them, many Kosovars remain in poverty.

The Kosovo government also spends an insufficient amount on education and science: only about 16 percent of the 2016 budget went toward these. This being noted, Kosovo’s youth received some of the lowest scores on the PISA test in 2015. The purpose of the exam is to determine the knowledge of 15-year-old students in the broad subjects of reading, science and math.

Having a strong educational system is crucial, especially in reducing poverty. Receiving an education gives one the opportunity to acquire a better-paying job. According to the Global Partnership for Education, if every single child could at least learn basic reading skills in school, then there would be a 12 percent drop in extreme poverty worldwide. This may not seem like much, but that is equivalent to 171 million individuals, who all possess different dreams and aspirations, and the potential to fulfill them.

With all of this information, instead of asking “why is Kosovo poor?”, it is now important to ask: what is being done to help Kosovo’s poor?

With more than two-thirds of the population living in rural areas, agriculture remains an important part of Kosovo’s economy. The World Bank is offering Kosovo a loan of 20.8 million euros to assist with agricultural purposes. The World Bank also supports the Agriculture and Rural Development Project, which helps finance investments in technologies that improve agricultural production.

Although Kosovo remains highly impoverished, there has been progress made. Over a span of a decade, the country’s GDP rose from $4.83 billion to $6.65 billion. With the help of different projects, Kosovo’s high poverty rates will continue to decrease.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Flickr

Drinking Water in Kosovo
Heightened pollution in rivers, as well as a lack of wastewater treatment and disposal, is having drastic adverse effects on the water quality in Kosovo.

Located in southeast Europe, between Serbia and Macedonia, Kosovo is a small country with a population of fewer than two million. The armed conflict that took place during 1998 and 1999 has had lasting effects on the country’s economy and general welfare, leaving its citizens with the lowest per capita GDP in Europe.

Although there has been much progress, the war’s devastation remains visible in the country. Only 44% of the country’s population has access to drinking water, and in rural areas, that number drops to 8.4%. Water quality in Kosovo is almost solely reliant on the country’s many rivers, but as pollution increases in the nation, the water quality plummets.

In bacteria and chemical testing of the water, the Water and Waste Regulatory Office reports a 90% rate of purity, while the international standard is above 99%.

Although frequently used interchangeably, sewage and wastewater are not the same things.  Thus, it is important when looking at the issues Kosovo has to understand their differences. Sewage is simply a category of the broader term, wastewater.  This category includes all excess water from domestic and non-residential establishments. The non-residential waste requires lengthy procedures to purify properly, and in Kosovo, there is no established system.

Kosovans who regularly drink tap water become sick, as there is no wastewater treatment system. The largest threat to water quality in Kosovo, however, lies in the nation’s lack of a sewage system.  Beyond urban lines, only 28% of homes are connected to any type of sewage system. The rest is disposed into downstream rivers which then contaminates the groundwater as well.  Kosovo’s government has recognized these threats and is working to improve protection standards for the country’s rivers.

In September 2016, the World Bank’s Executive Board of Directors agreed to allocate $24.5 million to restore Kosovo’s main water source, the Ibër Canal. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2022 and will restore water access to 500,000 people who live in proximity to the canal.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Google

organ harvesters
The international community awaits the European Union’s unveiling of a special tribunal for allegations against illegal organ harvesters in Kosovo in the late 1990s. Working for the EU, U.S. prosecutor John Clint Williamson will likely finish his investigation of the claims within this year. The government of Kosovo disapproves of the investigation, as many of its officials are former guerrilla members.

The renewed interest in long-awaited justice provides a grim reminder of a black market system responsible for the illegal global sale of approximately one organ every hour, according to the World Health Organization. In Europe alone, 120,000 desperate patients on dialysis and 40,000 patients awaiting organ transplants continue to buy organs from inhumane origins. Illegally obtained organs derive from a variety of methods including kidnapping, fraud, murder or seizure. The victim is ultimately unaware of the process.

In April of 2013, Serbia arrested five of its citizens involved in an illegal kidney ring serving wealthy patients in North America, Germany and Israel. Lutfi Deruishi, the leader, received an eight year sentence after the court convicted him of luring victims – often from Turkey, Moldova and Russia – to his clinic with the promise a large payout. The organ harvesters removed organs with little or no compensation and abandoned victims at the airport, which is how authorities eventually discovered the group. The prosecutor on the case, Jonathan Ratel, called the crimes a “..cruel harvest of the poor.”

The 2009 arrest of a Brooklyn man, Levy-Ishak Rosenbaum, resulted in the first federal prosecution of organ harvesting in the United States. He brokered sales to New Jersey patients of organs harvested from the poor of Israel and Moldova.

Impoverished Eastern Europeans find traffickers via the internet and believe the price of selling their organs will solve their desperate financial state. Traffickers often transport their victims across borders and threaten violence if the donor refuses to continue with the operation or reports the crime to police. These criminal organizations profit as the middleman between dying patients and impoverished donors, both willing to adopt extremes to survive. On the black market, organs can fetch tens of thousands of dollars – lungs and hearts selling for hundreds of thousands. The 15,000 to 20,000 kidneys trafficked each year account for 75 percent of all annual illegal organ sales.

The 2008 summit in Turkey of the Transplantation Society and International Society of Nephrology produced the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism. This document focuses on the state’s responsibility to protect the vulnerable poor. Governments, according to the Declaration, should reinforce programs on kidney disease prevention and proper medical care for donors. Experts believe legislation against organ trafficking will need increased enforcement; additionally, donor pool regulations will need to be reexamined in order to end the exploitation of the world’s impoverished.

— Erica Lignell

Sources: The Guardian, Seattle Times, NBC, WHO, NY Times 1, NY Times 2, NY Daily News 1, NY Daily News 2, Telegraph, Reuters, Medscape

Since the end of the war in 1999, the Republic of Kosovo has experienced consistent economic growth. Now a lower-middle-income country, it is one of only four countries in Europe that recorded positive growth rates during the economic crisis between 2008-2012, averaging about 4.5% each year. Despite its rapid growth, Kosovo continues to struggle with high rates of poverty and unemployment.

Joblessness is estimated to be at about 40% and remains a central economic-policy challenge. Youth and women are disproportionately affected by the difficult labor market conditions, creating an environment that undermines the country’s social fabric. Kosovo is one of the poorest countries in Europe with a per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) of about €2,700 and about one-third of the population living below the poverty line and approximately one-eighth living in extreme poverty.

Recent studies by UNICEF Kosovo showed that children are at higher risk of living in poverty in Kosovo compared to the general population. The greatest risk of poverty is for children who live in households with three or more children, children between 0 and 14 years of age, children of unemployed parents, children in households receiving social assistance, and children with low levels of education. Whereas, the risk of poverty is much lower for children in a household with at least one employed parent.

The European Union is mainstreaming an effort to fight child poverty by  recognizing the multi-dimensional nature of the issue. Child poverty and exclusion have high social and individual costs. Children in poverty are at high risks of low educational attainment, poor health, and an inability to find work later in life. Investing in children, therefore, is important not only for the well being of current children living in poverty, but also for the health, productivity, and engagement of future adult citizens.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, however only 98 of a total 193 UN member states have recognized Kosovo’s independence. The lack of agreement remains a central obstacle to achieving the country’s goals for political integration and socio-economic development.

To help reverse joblessness and build a long-term economic growth plan, the World Bank, along with ten other donors, recently awarded Kosove 61 million Euros, mostly in the form of grant money. The Sustainable Employment Development Policy Program (SEDPP) funds were disbursed from the end of 2011 to the middle of 2012. The funds have supported reforms and improved transparency throughout many sectors in the country.

– Ali Warlich

Sources: World Bank, UNICEF, World Bank
Photo: SOS Children’s Villages