Restoring Livelihoods in Croatia

July 19, 2011

Fifteen years after the end of hostilities in Croatia, some people still live in areas where roads, buildings and the water supply are destroyed and the land is littered with mines. Jobs are scarce.

But 84,000 people in parts of the country affected by war or underdevelopment have had help catching up with more developed areas in the last five years.

Life in the remote Noskovci village drastically improved for 70 elderly and physically impaired people after a project supported by the World Bank hired assistants to take them to the doctor, and help shop, cook and clean. It broke their isolation and created jobs.

The Social and Economic Recovery Project created 1,341 new jobs, almost half of which were filled by women. EUR11 million was generated by small businesses, crafts and cooperatives.

Ceminac, heavily damaged in the war, got its first ever kindergarten and nursery, where 65 children from different backgrounds play and learn together.

" I am very happy with the new kindergarten and my daughter Iva is also very happy. Now I don't have to worry about what to do with her and can go to work. "

Jadranka Strok

Over 400 small projects were funded; kindergarten and school construction, water supply, community centers, treatment centers for drug abusers, olive grinding machines, and landmine clearing equipment.

A large chunk of agricultural land was demined so it could be cultivated and so people could walk on the land without fearing for their lives.

The Tomaic family got a grant to buy equipment to bring the cheese they make to European Union standards. With it, they hope to hire more employees and buy more milk from nearby families and export to Europe and the US.

The program was popular, and grant requests from communities flooded in. In applying for the grants and managing them, thousands of officials and civil society representatives learned about strategic planning, cost and project management, business plans and procurement. That laid the foundation for regions to better prepare for European Union membership and apply for EU funds.

"I have worked on this project from the very beginning—first as a team member and later as the project task manager. This gave me an unique opportunity to see the life-changing impact the Project made on the people living in war-affected and underdeveloped areas of Croatia. Despite the differing nature of the funded sub-projects and their localities, the satisfaction and gratitude of the beneficiaries is the same everywhere. In short, their well-being and quality of life have been changed for the better," says Vera Dugandzic, World Bank task manager for the Croatia Social and Economic Recovery project.

Social and economic cohesion has also improved along with trust among different groups. Which is a result of community driven, bottom-up and people-centered development in Croatia.