The children

Millennium Development Goals: Pushing back the Barriers in BiH

The Reality of Life Today for the Children of Bosnia and Herzegovina


The Reality of Life Today for the Children of Bosnia and Herzegovina

© UNICEF/BHG2011/Asael

Poverty, social exclusion and the consequences of system gaps and weaknesses are the three main and interlinked challenges that need to be addressed in order to ensure the fulfilment of the rights of children and the delivery of social services in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 


Despite doubling the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita between 2000 and 2007 one fifth of the population continues to live in poverty. Families with three or more children, women, Romany and other ethnic minorities, internally displaced persons (IDP), children with disabilities and youth remain particularly vulnerable. In order to try and cope with the ever increasing cost of living in BiH many households have little choice but to resort to reducing their normal expenditure on food and other essentials of life. Laws covering a wide range of child protection measures and rights exist.Yet many are not enforced due to lack of funding, inadequate procedures, standards and referral practices as well as a general lack of coordination. Families with three or more children are particularly vulnerable: two thirds are poor and the depth of their poverty is more severe.

Social Exclusion

The war caused significant damage to the social structure in BiH and many of the consequences remain today. More than 50% of the population experiences some form of social exclusion, discrimination or stigma, ranging across the social strata. The root causes include structural barriers to inadequate services, limited civil society participation, discriminatory attitudes within communities and institutionalised political and administrative fragmentation along ethnic lines.

A comprehensive analysis of the data collected during the course of the UNICEF research “Divided Schools in BiH” shows that there are pronounced differences in BiH and different views prevail with regard to all of the key issues related to education in the country. The phenomenon of divided and mono-ethnic schools is not the only problem related to education. There are numerous parallel problems, such as the existence of a number of curriculums, the lack of respect for the legal provisions and the fear that joint education of children from different ethnic backgrounds might lead to a loss of national identity.

System Gaps and Weaknesses

The fragmented institutional structure of BiH continues to hinder governance, decision making, budgeting and the uniform provision of quality basic services. The lack of harmonization in laws, policies and strategies often leaves local service providers with insufficient authority or means to implement social inclusion or child protection measures. This result is inequities in services and benefits between the entities, cantons and municipalities.
The country has limited capacity to provide basic data on children, such as those without parental care, children with disabilities and victims of domestic violence, which further inhibits the reform process. Perceived corruption is also an important obstacle to social development in BiH.





Facts on Data Collection

• Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS). In order to address this fundamental lack of information on the status of children, every 4 years UNICEF supports  the implementation of one of the largest household qualitative surveys in BiH. The aim of the MICS is to collect comprehensive data on the living conditions of women and children. The most recent survey was conducted in 2007 and the next one is planned for 2011.
• Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA). This methodology was designed to measure the impact of macroeconomic and social policies on children and families. A new CRIA is presently under development.
• DevInfo. UNICEF has been supporting the use of DevInfo across the country. This is software developed at the global level to monitor achievements of the Millennium development Goals (MDGs) and other indicators related to children.

Facts on Social Exclusion

Romany is the largest minority in BiH with an estimated population of 70,000. UNICEF research shows that:
o 80% of Romany children live in poverty
o Romany children are 5 times more likely to be underweight at birth than other children
o Around 60% of Romany children have not been fully immunised against preventable diseases

Rural poverty is twice that of urban areas and little or no progress has been made in reducing this gap.

Facts on Poverty

640.000 or 18.56% population live in absolute poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

UNICEF estimates that approximately 170,000 children in BiH are poor; the majority come from minority groups, such as Romany or Internally Displaced Persons - IDP.


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