Annual Report 2021

UNICEF Kosovo Programme

English - 2022



Kosovo remains one of the poorest places in Europe, with an estimated 23 per cent of the population living in poverty. Kosovo’s GDP per capita is just one-quarter of the European Union average. Kosovo spends just 8.5 per cent of its GDP on social protection, compared to an average of 28 per cent in the EU. As a result, children’s access to health, education and other social services remains limited, especially for the most disadvantaged. Children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are particularly underserved, as are those who have disabilities or who live in rural areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic continued throughout 2021, putting an unprecedented burden on Kosovo’s health system and other social services. Kosovo experienced its fourth and most severe wave of the pandemic to date during August and September 2021. About 165,000 cases and 3,000 COVID-19 related deaths have been registered since the onset of the pandemic, despite mitigation measures and some of the highest vaccination rates in the Western Balkans, with almost half of the population being fully vaccinated (43.5 per cent). Even before COVID-19, Kosovo’s health sector faced serious structural challenges. The child mortality rate is four times higher than the EU average (eight times higher in Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities).

Disparities in access to health services are striking, with only 38 per cent of children under-2 fully immunized for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities (compared to 73 per cent among the general population). Disruption of routine immunization services and other maternal and child health care services due to the pandemic has only made the situation worse. COVID-19 disrupted education throughout 2021, with a late start of the academic year and schools operating in shifts and using blended learning. These disruptions are expected to exacerbate existing learning inequalities and negatively affect basic reading and numeracy skills among children.

The pandemic has also resulted in job losses. In 2021, the youth unemployment rate increased to 48.6 per cent overall (53.5 per cent for women). Nearly 30 per cent of 15-year-olds were not in employment, education or training, an increase of 10 per cent in 2021. Adolescent girls became at high risk of anxiety, depression, sexual and reproductive health concerns and unequal gender roles at home, while boys were at risk of engaging in child labour to contribute to family income.

UNICEF responded to these challenges by helping multi-sectoral COVID response efforts to reach the most vulnerable, continuing its advocacy for increased funding for social protection and expanding the use of technology for health care and distance learning in schools.

UNICEF Kosovo Programme
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