Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina was established in 1995 to respond to the pressing humanitarian crisis resulting from the Bosnian Civil War that occurred during the 1990s. Caritas provided relief in the form of food, clothes, shoes, medicine, fuel and other supplies to the thousands of refugees and exiles, the elderly and sick, socially disadvantaged, victims of war, and to those most in need. Nearly two decades later, the scope of Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina's work continues to develop and diversify to meet the challenges confronting the nation, such as high unemployment rate, human trafficking, social injustice, poverty and social exclusion, natural disasters and conflict. Year after year, the urgency for Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina's services continues to grow as the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions persists and the number of poor and disadvantaged rises.
Providing humanitarian assistance during and after natural disasters or conflict remains the cornerstone of Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina's mission. In 2010 and 2011, Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrated its solidarity with those most in need when the worst floods in decades created numerous landslides in Bosnia forcing thousands of families in five municipalities to evacuate their damaged or destroyed homes. Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina answered with relief consisting of food, blankets, shoes, medicine, firewood and stoves to 1,181 families.
Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina's winter assistance programme provides fuel and heaters to poor families, home care services to improve the health and living conditions of the elderly and the sick, and peace-building and reconciliation initiatives to build a stable and sustainable peace in local communities.
One of the biggest macroeconomic problems blighting the region the last fifteen years has been a high unemployment rate. In response, Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina has established educational centres, such as in Republika Srpska, to facilitate the vocational training of adults for social professions. It actively lobbies at the state level to establish training opportunities to improve the nation’s social and economic opportunities.
Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina's public awareness campaigns and educational programmes combat the growing human trafficking problem facing the nation. Economic empowerment workshops offer sewing, knitting and wool felting courses to prevent vulnerable girls from becoming victims of human trafficking. The micro-financing dimension also creates economic opportunities for small business, such as poultry farming, beekeeping and distribution of greenhouses.
Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina head offices are in Sarajevo; it has approximately 200 staff members and 80 volunteers. In addition, complementing the secretariat office are 3 (arch) diocesan Caritas organisations.
Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina is a member of Caritas Internationalis and actively collaborates and receives support from the confederation, such as Caritas Austria, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Caritas France, Caritas Croatia, Caritas Germany and Caritas Spain. In particular, Caritas members from Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and CRS have representatives present to offer assistance during the initial implementation and development stages of its programmes.
H.E. Cardinal Vinko Puljic
Mgr Tomo Knezevic