A landlocked nation slightly larger than the state of Delaware, Kosovo is the smallest country in the Balkans. It’s also the youngest country in Europe, declaring its independence from Serbia in 2008, with one of the youngest populations on the continent. More than 40% of its 1.9 million people are under 25.
Kosovo has experienced steady economic growth over the past decade, but it is still one of the poorest countries in Europe. The rate of unemployment stands at 33% and skyrockets to nearly 60% for the nation’s youth.
Limited economic resources make it especially difficult for Kosovo to keep up with global health standards — and health care suffers as a result. The economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic will only place added strain on the country’s already over-burdened health system.
The increasing burden of noncommunicable diseases
There is limited health data for Kosovo, but the country has the lowest life expectancy in the region. A recent study suggests a high incidence of non-communicable diseases such as depression, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Mental health is a major concern and is often linked to the war in the late 1990s. Studies have found a prevalence of depression ranging from around 30% to 66%, well above the global average.
Air pollution is a top national concern as well, with poor air quality rivaling cities like Mumbai and Beijing and increasing the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Poor maternal, neonatal, and child health
Kosovo has made continual progress in improving the health of its newborns and infants. From 2000 to 2017, the country’s infant mortality rate dropped by more than half, from 29 deaths per 1,000 births to 11. Despite the improvement, the rate is still nearly three times higher than the European average of 4.1 deaths per 1,000 births. Three-quarters of all infant deaths are neonates, indicating ongoing issues with the quality of maternal, neonatal, and child health care.
While data on maternal health and mortality is limited, there is evidence of a growing number of cesarean sections. Nearly 30% of all births in 2015 were by cesarean section — almost triple the World Health Organization’s guideline of 10% to 15%.
Lack of resources
All of the public health challenges in Kosovo are compounded by a lack of resources. Some of the most basic and essential medicines are either unavailable or too expensive, resulting in dire and sometimes fatal medicine shortages. Without access to the right medicine and supplies, conditions that are entirely treatable can quickly become life-threatening.
Bringing HOPE to Kosovo
Our history in Kosovo
Project HOPE was one of the first responders to the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo after the war ended in 1999. We have continued to provide critical medical supplies and training for health workers ever since.
Delivering essential medicines and supplies
Through the Strategic Medical Resupply Program, Project HOPE works closely with the Ministry of Health to deliver essential donated medicines, medical equipment, and supplies to hospitals and health facilities throughout Kosovo.
Donations include everything from pharmaceutical drugs and consumer disposable products to medical equipment. This support goes a long way, allowing hospitals and clinics to redirect financial resources to address priority issues and improve patient care.
Training health workers
Project HOPE medical volunteers provide support and peer-to-peer education to health workers at the University Clinical Center in the capital of Pristina.
At hospitals and health clinics throughout the country, we train health workers on the proper use of donated medical equipment and supplies. We also strengthen the capacity of pharmacies at these health facilities by training pharmacists and facility personnel in international best practices in inventory management.
Protecting communities against COVID-19
Since the onset of COVID-19, Project HOPE has been supporting the Ministry of Health and frontline health workers to better detect, contain, and respond to the virus.
In partnership with Brown University, we delivered virtual training for doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, and in partnership with the Weitzman Institute, we provided health workers with the opportunity to conduct e-Consults with experts in the U.S. to discuss case management and treatment of complex cases.
Since 2010, Project HOPE has delivered over $60 million in lifesaving medicines, medical supplies, and medical equipment to government health facilities throughout Kosovo. Donations have proven critical in reducing infant mortality, improving maternal and child health, and ensuring everyone has access to the quality care they deserve.
Between 2019 and 2020, we delivered over $4.5 million in medications to the University Clinical Center in Pristina. Many of these medicines are unavailable locally and have been distributed to patients throughout Kosovo.
In 2020, Project HOPE’s COVID-19 trainings reached nearly 500 frontline health workers across Kosovo.