Children in Kosovo
UNICEF in Kosovo promotes social inclusion of the most vulnerable children. We are committed to leave no child behind!
UNICEF Kosovo remains the most reliable voice for children in media outlets.
31% of Kosovo’s population is 0-18 years old. Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe with an average age of 29.5 years.
Kosovo’s children—its future generations—are still subject to significant obstacles in realizing their basic rights.
Children in rural areas are less likely to have access to quality education and health care, with members of ethnic minorities and those living in the poorest households experiencing even more limitations. Children with disabilities also face numerous challenges and, for the most part, remain invisible in Kosovo. Kosovo’s health and education systems have struggled to provide quality services due to limited financial and human resources. Poor governance, gaps between policy, planning and implementation and limited financial resources have contributed to discrepancies in child-relevant services, especially at the municipality level.
Children are more likely to miss out on key opportunities if they live in rural or remote areas, are from Roma, Ashkali or Egyptian communities, have a parent with lower education or come from a poor household.
Nearly 23% of Kosovo’s children live in poverty and 7% live in extreme poverty.
Poverty in Kosovo disproportionally affects women, children, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and rural populations. One in four children under 5 years of age live in the poorest households. Only 20 per cent of household members rely on clean fuels and technology for cooking, heating and lighting. Nearly 90 per cent of households have access to clean drinking water, but 23 per cent of the population still consumes water tainted with E. coli. Gender discrimination plays a significant role in hindering women’s access to economic, social and political opportunities and inequality in urban areas is on the rise. Spending on social protection in Kosovo continues to be well below the regional level and limits the ability to reduce poverty and inequality, in part because children aren’t directly addressed in the social programs.
84% of five-year-old children attend pre-primary school, but only 15% of children attend an early education program.
According to the recent Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) data, only 15 per cent of children and eight per cent of children from Roma, Ashkali or Egyptian communities, aged 36-59 months, participate in an early learning program. Participation increases dramatically one year prior to primary school enrollment, when 84 per cent of children in the general population and 45 per cent of children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities attend a pre-primary school. This is a significant increase from 2014, when only 76 per cent of children attended pre-primary school. While gender plays a minor role in early childhood education participation, household wealth has a significant impact on net attendance rates of children living in Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities at all three levels. In these communities, children living in richest households are two times more likely to attend lower secondary school than those living in poorest households and they are four times more likely to attend upper secondary school.
73% of children under 2 years of age are fully immunized. Among children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities the rate is 38%.
Child health indicators in Kosovo are still among the poorest in the region, pointing to gaps in both access and quality of healthcare. Data indicates the need to strengthen equity-focused policy action to fully address all aspects of Child Health Development and Wellbeing. Children, poor households and other vulnerable groups have the most difficulty receiving the health-related services they are entitled to. Immunization rates still lag partly due to a lack of awareness on the importance of keeping up with immunization schedules. The lack of reliable and quality administrative data also limits the ability to track progress on immunizations.
The Infant Mortality Rate in Kosovo is estimated at 15 per 1,000 live births, while among children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities the rate is nearly two times higher, estimated at 26 per 1,000 live births. 100 per cent of births in Kosovo are delivered by skilled health attendants. (MICS 2020)
Child malnutrition continues to be a concern in Kosovo and striking inequalities exist for children in the poorest households and in Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. Only one in three children between 6 and 36 months of age receives the minimum acceptable diet. In the richest households, 49 per cent of children received the minimum diet diversity versus 34 per cent of children (one in three) in the poorest households. While about 80 per cent of children receive the minimum recommended number of meals, only 45 per cent of children receive a minimally diverse diet.
87% of Kosovo’s children and only 24% of children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities’ complete upper secondary education.
In Kosovo, 96 per cent of primary-school-aged children and 84 per cent of children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are attending primary school. (MICS 2020) School attendance decreases as children age and more children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are lost in the transition to secondary education. (MICS 2020) The attendance for secondary school stands at 94 per cent (64 per cent among Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian) and 87 per cent (31 per cent among Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian) for children attending upper secondary school. School completion rates are exceptional with 98 per cent of children completing primary, 97 per cent completing lower secondary and 87 per cent completing upper secondary school. The biggest discrepancy can be found among children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities where completion rates drop to 85 per cent for primary, 59 per cent for lower secondary and 24 per cent of children completing upper secondary school.
Household wealth has a significant impact on school attendance rates of children living in Roma, Askhali and Egyptian communities. Children living in the richest households of these communities are two times more likely to attend lower secondary school, and four times more likely to attend upper secondary school.
Low school readiness, poor economic conditions, early marriage, child labour, preference for girls to stay at home and low parental education level are all factors for decreased school attendance. Discrimination, stigmatization, violence and bullying also impact children’s commitment to school. Inclusion of children with disabilities is not yet up to the mark and disability remains a major barrier to access education.
41% of children in Kosovo have a foundational level of literacy and 42% have a solid foundation of numeracy skills.
Children in Kosovo who live in rural, poor households are most at risk for receiving lower quality education. Inequalities and variations, which exist among municipalities, also impact a child’s access to high- or low-quality education. The lack of spending on education, insufficient preparation and support of teachers, low-quality facilities and inadequate use of student-centred teaching methods are key factors that determine the level of quality education a child will receive.
Foundational skills are an important measure of education in Kosovo. While 80 per cent of 7 to 14-year-olds can read a story correctly and 88 per cent are able to identify numbers, less than half of Kosovo’s students retain Grade 2 equivalent skills. 41 per cent of children have a foundational level of literacy and 42 per cent have a solid foundation of numeracy skills. Among children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, these rates dip even further to 18 per cent literacy and 13 per cent numeracy skills.
72% of children aged 1-14 years experienced psychological aggression and physical punishment.
Violence against children in Kosovo remains largely invisible – both the practice and silence surrounding it are perpetuated by social beliefs and norms. 72 per cent of children experience any type of violent discipline, including psychological aggression and/or physical punishment. 30 per cent of children experience physical punishment and 24 per cent of children are disciplined using only non-violent methods. Children most at risk of experiencing violence, abuse or neglect are children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, and children with disabilities, especially girls.
Early marriage continues to be prevalent, impacting the lives and education of children in Kosovo. 1 in 25 women and 1 in 50 men (aged 20-24) were married before 18 years of age. This increases significantly among children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities where one in three women and 1 out of 10 men (aged 20-24) were married before 18 years of age. Education and household wealth also play significant roles in determining when a woman gets married.
8% of Kosovo’s children have a functional difficulty in at least one domain. Only 10% of children with disabilities benefit from health education and social services.
Children with disabilities are among the most marginalized groups in society and face multiple challenges. They are largely excluded from the education system in Kosovo and are less likely to access medical services and have their voices heard in society. This is especially pronounced in Kosovo’s poor and remote households and for children belonging to Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. Discrimination against and exclusion of children with disabilities also puts them at a higher risk of physical and emotional abuse or other forms of neglect, violence and exploitation. Improved accessibility, inclusive learning spaces and infrastructure (including toilets, stairs and ramps), access to assistive devices and specially trained teachers and assistants, are crucial to improving the participation of children with disabilities in schools. Increased awareness of the rights of children with disabilities and a more cohesive legal framework would also positively impact the lives of these children and their families.