Action for Mothers and Children
On Friday, July 26, 2019, I met with Ms. Mrika Aliu. She was the Executive Director of Action for Mothers and Children (AMC). AMC is the only non-governmental organization in Kosovo that works on maternal and child health.
Alongside efforts conducted by the Ministry of Health, AMC helped lower Kosovo’s infant mortality rate of 29 deaths per 1000 births to 11 deaths per 1,000 births. This happened in a span of 10 years. That is tremendous progress. Mrika was recently hired by the World Bank as a Human Development Specialist focusing on Health, Nutrition, and Population Practice, but she still continues to support AMC initiatives.
During the first week of my course in Human Rights in Global Perspective, my professor Garentina Kraja asked students about their particular interests and what we had hoped to gain from the course.
I mentioned that I was interested in human rights abuses against women and children and that my ultimate goal was to help reduce maternal and infant mortality rates in Haiti. She then said that she would connect me to Mrika. This brought me a lot of excitement because I wanted to learn about different programs and tactics that Kosovo utilized to decrease infant mortality rates in about a decade.
Health and Development
Mrika and I met at a local book station called Soma. Some things that I learned from our conversation is that Kosovo does not have a formal healthcare system that is fully developed. There is no health insurance system so people get “free” services from government-run public institutions and they pay for prescriptions and private health appointments.
During the Yugoslavia era, Kosovo had weak healthcare infrastructure so the health system never had the opportunity to flourish due to underinvestment. It is not uncommon for Kosovar’s to go abroad for certain procedures like surgery. There is one medical school in Kosovo at the University of Prishtina and many doctors receive training abroad as well.
Comparison to Haiti
Kosovo’s problems with healthcare are focused more so on infrastructure rather than finances. In Haiti, the healthcare system suffers both financially and infrastructurally. Both Haiti and Kosovo deal with cultural beliefs surrounding health as mothers tended to place more value on advice from their mother or other women in their communities than their doctors.
However, Kosovo has a better doctor to patient ratio than in Haiti. This is largely due to the fact that Kosovo is a small country. It has a population of nearly 2 million people, while Haiti has a population that is nearly 11 million. Also, a large percentage of Haitians live in rural areas and a significant amount of the population is illiterate. In Kosovo, even in more rural areas, the country has great cell service reception so people are always able to access healthcare services when they need them.
Mrika advised that I take courses in healthcare administration and project management to learn the skills that are necessary for running an organization. I told her about my ideas about creating an organization and she suggested that I look into working for an organization that is already established in Haiti.
Haiti has many organizations that work on maternal and child health and it may be beneficial for me to go into an organization that does not have to worry about establishing a board or raising initial funds for establishment. She also suggested that I do more research on maternal and child health to try to understand a bit more about the extent of the healthcare issue in Haiti. Meeting with Mrika bought insight and I hope to use her advice during my career.