Partnership to Improve the Health of Women and Children in Kosovo

More than two decades of political unrest culminating in war in 1998-1999 left Kosovo’s healthcare infrastructure in severe crisis. The continuing poor health status of women and children represents a critical barrier to socio-economic development. Kosovo is home to around 2 million people, half of whom are under the age of 25, with some 350,000 women in their reproductive years.

Currently, Kosovo’s infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in Europe and the healthcare system is characterized by a lack of coordination among care providers, whether public or private, at all levels of care. Other key challenges include the inability to collect accurate maternal and child health data, quantify problems, and affect systematic solutions; lack of necessary equipment and supplies; significant clinical training and education gaps in pediatrics and women’s health; lack of regularly implemented hospital-based continuous education programs in neonatal resuscitation, pediatric emergency medicine, and other child health issues; and lack of community-based outreach programs focused on health promotion and disease prevention.

With support from the American people through USAID/Kosovo, AIHA launched a three-year partnership project to improve the health of women and children in Kosovo in March 2009. This partnership linked U.S. health and civic organizations with counterpart institutions throughout Kosovo to strengthen maternal and child healthcare capacity at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels.

Together with key national and local stakeholders in Kosovo, AIHA and ou partners worked to build the prerequisite institutional and human resource capacity needed to:

  • Improve quality, scope, and frequency of prenatal care;
  • Improve quality of primary level care for infants and children;
  • Improve perinatal and post-partum care for women and newborns;
  • Improve quality of care for high-risk mothers and infants, as well as emergency cases; and
  • Raise awareness of the importance of prenatal care through targeted patient education and community outreach.

Additional project objectives included strengthening and expanding women’s gynecological services to include screening and early detection for breast and cervical cancer and pre-malignant disease; strengthening maternal and child health data collection, information, and reporting systems to better inform related policies and programs; and improving health professions education opportunities and tele-consultation services.

U.S. partners contributing their knowledge and expertise included the Providence-based Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island and National Perinatal Information Center, California-based ValleyCare Health Systems and Livermore Rotary Club, and the American Medical Resources Foundation and Assist International.

Working closely with the Ministry of Health and local administrations, AIHA and our partners completed a comprehensive assessment of tertiary, main secondary, and selected primary maternal and child health institutions spanning Kosovo. They also conducted a maternal and child health round-table and case management discussion with key local and international stakeholders, supported in-country activities related to the International Day of the Midwife, participated in the U.S. Embassy’s Balkan Breast Cancer Initiative activities, initiated colposcopy services at the University Clinical Center of Kosovo in Pristina, and secured the donation of two ambulances, which were equipped for neonatal transport and given to the Center.

Other activities included participation in the National Maternal and Child Health Conference held in Pristina in May 2009, conducting a consensus meeting on the regionalization of perinatal care, and conducting trainings on neonatal resuscitation and obstetric emergency care at four regional hospitals.

Project activities also focused on practitioner education, training, and networking; implementing a system of regionalization of neonatal care using the ambulances to transfer the most at-risk newborns to the tertiary care hospital; public education and outreach campaigns and targeted media messaging; and assessment, revision, and/or development of obstetric and neonatal protocols.

In addition, on September 16, 2009, AIHA and its partners helped conduct a health symposium titled “A Healthy Start in Life” at Camp Bondsteel, the U.S. army base in eastern Kosovo. The event brought together nearly 200 Kosovar and Serbian physicians, midwives, and allied professionals working in healthcare facilities throughout the country.

To read more about the many accomplishments of this public-private partnership in the project closeout report, please click here.