Children of Kosovo
Realizing Children’s Rights in Kosovo
Following a violent war, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008. Yet in 2012, it is only recognized by 91 of the 193 UN member countries. It is still home to very raw ethnic tensions, poverty and child labour. These are matters of serious concern, and children, especially those from minority groups, remain the most affected.
Realization of Children’s Rights Index : 7.45 / 10
Population: 2 million
Life expectancy: 70 years
Main problems faced by children in Kosovo:
With nearly 30% of the population living below the poverty line (about $ 1.25 / day), Kosovo is one of the poorest countries of the European continent. Although significant progress has been made in recent years to stabilize the economy, Kosovo is still dependent on international aid.
Moreover, the labour market remains very small and difficult to modernize: nearly 45% of the population are unemployed. Poverty affects children in the first place, as well as Roma and Ashkali minorities.
During the war, thousands of people had to flee their homes, and few of them managed to go back: in a state of extreme poverty, many families live on the streets or in makeshift camps with their children.
More than 100,000 children below the age of 14 live on less than €1 per day. This is why many work mainly as street vendors or garbage collectors. There are also many children begging on the streets.
These activities have an impact not only on the development and safety of the children, but also in the long run, on society as a whole since these children do not attend school.
Despite a relatively young population, education in Kosovo is not a priority. Children go to primary school in shifts of three or four groups due to lack of adequate infrastructure.
Preschools are very poorly developed. Currently less than 10% of children aged three to six have access to early childhood education.
Moreover, inequalities persist. Firstly between girls and boys, with only 70% of girls benefiting from secondary education after primary school, compared to 95% for boys; but also between Kosovar Albanians (almost 98% of children attend primary school) and Kosovar minorities (only 77% of children aged 6-14 are enrolled in school).
Health conditions are very bad. Approximately 36% of the population lack access to drinking water. Moreover, many cases of tuberculosis and industrial contamination, especially by lead, have been recorded. Finally, the occurrence of HIV/AIDS is increasing dangerously as a result of of the lack of public awareness, of weak health and sex education, of population movements and of sexual exploitation of children.
An estimated 70% of landmine victims are under the age of 24. Yet the lack of infrastructure for these war victims is deplorable, as it is generally for the disabled, who have more problems to be integrated into society.
In Kosovo, an estimated one in 10 children under five is malnourished.
One of the main causes of malnutrition is the lack of iodized salt in the diet of the Kosovars. This anaemia has severe consequences on the physical and mental development of children.
A recent study by UNICEF shows that child trafficking is increasing. These children are destined primarily for sexual exploitation, organ trafficking and forced labour in Kosovo, but also to other countries in Europe.
Several minorities of non-Albanian ethnic origin live in Kosovo, including the Roma, Ashkali and Serbs. They represent nearly 8% of the population, about 160,000 people. Children from these groups are more readily exposed to violations of children’s rights.
A distinction should be made between the children of the Kosovar Serb community, who are more often victims of violence, and Roma and Ashkali children who are mostly affected by poverty, begging and lack of schooling.