Charities in MacedoniaThe State Statistics Agency reports that as of 2020, more than 450,000 people in North Macedonia lived below the poverty line. Macedonia’s middle class is on the brink of collapsing under economic stress and its poor can barely afford basic necessities. The consequences of Macedonia’s poverty have carved out a treacherous pathway for children to succeed. Specifically, 299 out of 300 children who live in poverty are not enrolled in preschool and one out of three impoverished children go to secondary school. Furthermore, the likelihood of impoverished girls marrying before they reach age 18 is six times more than girls that are not experiencing poverty. Moreover, impoverished children have the chances of facing physical abuse at home, increased by two times more than children not experiencing poverty. Charities in Macedonia are critical to helping impoverished children, youth and adults.

5 Charities in Macedonia

  1. Habitat for Humanity: North Macedonia is currently in a housing crisis because many people can barely afford to buy homes in large cities, many homes in rural areas are abandoned and the homes in the slums are overcrowded and lack essential infrastructure. Habitat for Humanity began its journey in North Macedonia in 2004 to solve this housing crisis. It has also established the New Builds program in Macedonia to build apartments that are priced at affordable prices. As of 2019, the organization helped build five apartment buildings. Habitat for Humanity has also created an energy efficiency program in Macedonia. This program ensures the infrastructure changes in apartments that reduce the cost of paying for energy prices. Since 2010, it made these positive changes to more than 60 buildings. These innovations have saved 7,910 MWh annually while decreasing CO2 emissions by 3,670. Habitat for Humanity additionally manages 128 apartment buildings with 3,120 apartments.
  2. Lighthouse of Hope: The SOS Children’s Village finds that a fifth of children who live in poverty in Macedonia are placed into state-run institutions. Founded in 2015, Lighthouse of Hope provides orphans in Macedonia with loving care. This charity organization established The JOY Home, a daycare center for children who are orphans with disabilities. It works three days a week and more than 15 children a week receive physical therapy, speech therapy, play and attachment and life skills training.
  3. Foundation Open Society Macedonia: Established in 1992, Foundation Open Society Macedonia has been helping citizens by providing “grants for civil society organizations” as well as groups and individuals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization provided $148,000 to a regional project “Response to the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 by supporting vulnerable groups, the low-paid workers, workers from the informal economy and those occasionally employed.” This grant helped mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups such as women and marginalized communities, specifically in terms of employment for the members of these groups. Furthermore, it helped with “the monitoring and creation of public policies” as well as strengthening the representation of people who are vulnerable to the economic impacts of COVID-19.
  4. Roma Rock School: UNICEF reports that more than 100,000 children lived in poverty in Macedonia as of 2017. It also reports that only two-thirds of youth in poverty are able to complete high school in Macedonia. Since 2017, Roma Rock School has been helping Roma youth and children in Macedonia by providing them with free music education. The children can choose to take classes in the “drums, guitar, bass guitar, vocals, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, theory of music and solfège.” As of 2018, around 40 young people enrolled in Roma Rock School. The students meet famous musicians so they can envision a life that is different than their impoverished home lives. In a 2019 Kultivator project, students had a chance to engage in rehearsals, jamming and producing an original song, with a famous musician named Peter Mladenovski.
  5. The SOS Children’s Village: The SOS Children’s Village in Macedonia, which started helping people in Macedonia in 1995, helps nurture and support children who are orphans and abandoned and impoverished families in Macedonia, according to its website. In its village, the organization provides a “loving home” for a total of 64 orphans or abandoned children. In addition to this, the organization has a social center to help families, particularly women and children, and it currently has 264 beneficiaries. It helps people to work their way out of poverty and achieve self-reliance.

Making a Change

Charitable organizations in Macedonia are actively working to improve the lives of impoverished individuals on a daily basis. These organizations provide a safe haven where people can seek assistance, find shelter and regain their confidence. Through the support of these organizations, individuals are able to develop the necessary skills and resources to overcome poverty and secure a brighter future for themselves.

– Rachael Weiser 
Photo: Unsplash

Given its position among continental Europe’s poorest countries, it is unsurprising that poverty in Macedonia remains a persistent, pervasive issue. In a July 10 meeting, seven Central European member states called on the E.U. to accelerate the accession process of Balkan countries to the body, citing security concerns. The prospect of E.U. membership has been a main driver of reform in the region since the end of the Balkan wars, with Serbia and Montenegro currently in accession talks and Albania and Macedonia recognized as candidate countries. As the western Balkans look toward European Union membership, Macedonia must further pursue measures to eliminate poverty within its borders by addressing the following causes:

Despite significant economic growth over the past ten years, the rate of unemployment in Macedonia remains high, sitting between 25 and 31 percent until it fell to 23.7 percent in 2016. Though employment is growing, labor force participation has declined, and those who are unemployed remain that way for extended periods of time. Of the unemployed population, 81 percent of people have been so for the long term. In addition, labor force participation is declining, particularly among the younger population. The World Bank reports that this decrease has been occurring gradually since 2012.

Rising real wages, growth in unskilled labor markets and increasing relevance of education programs had a notable impact on decreasing poverty in 2016. Poverty in Macedonia has declined from 34.3 percent in 2013 to 30.7 percent at the end of last year. As the 2016 programs continue to grow, the rate is expected to continue to fall.

Government corruption 
While corruption is an internationally recognized vulnerability of the countries in the western Balkans, citizens of Macedonia have placed it among the most important issues facing their country, ranking it just below unemployment and poverty. Exposure varies significantly across regions, but, on average, 10.8 percent of Macedonians aged 18 to 64 have been directly involved in corruption or exposed through a member of their household. Such high prevalence is concerning, but what is more important is that nearly a third of bribes are offered by citizens without solicitation from public officials. Bribes requested by officials, directly or indirectly, account for about 50 percent of all those paid.

The fact that citizens are willingly devoting what is often a significant portion of their resources to corruption indicates a fundamental lack of faith in the government’s operating ability. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that 50 percent of citizens who participate in bribery intend to hasten procedure, 12 percent do so to ensure an outcome, 11 percent pay to receive preferential treatment and 12 percent pay bribes that lack a specific purpose. Improving the functions of Macedonia’s institutions will ultimately work to eliminate corruption, as the population begins to trust their bureaucratic services. However, corruption within the government remains a pervasive issue and must be addressed before such reforms can occur.

Political tensions
Macedonia has faced a tumultuous quarter-century since the breakup of Yugoslavia, leaving the state prone to internal political conflict which has led to instability and poverty in Macedonia. Macedonia’s democracy lacks healthy political-party competition, which has forced its government to often act as a clientelistic service rather than a presiding body. There has also been a resurgence of nationalism in Macedonia, prompting many international media outlets to declare a new ethnic crisis in the spring of 2017. While this so-called crisis ultimately culminated in unrest similar to many other periods in Macedonia, tensions along ethnic lines persist and are regularly exploited by the international community.

Macedonia’s ongoing efforts to bolster its labor force through developing opportunities for job-relevant education demonstrate that the state has recognized the importance of cultivating its human capital as a method for raising its international status as a trade partner and regional player. As the future of Europe moves toward the center of the world stage, the transparency of the Macedonian government and the country’s internal tensions will be under ever-increasing scrutiny, which will likely push Macedonia to seek improvement in both of these areas. While there is still progress to be made toward eliminating poverty in Macedonia, it is clear that the state has recognized the areas where it can improve, and, as pressures to join the E.U. continue to mount, Macedonia will only have further incentive to work toward this goal.

Alena Zafonte

Photo: Flickr