Sharing his views on Macedonia's progress, Dr. Vangel Icoski, Country Director, Promaja Prevention Organization Macedonia said, “Macedonia has come a long way in bolstering its fight against promaja and it shows that with its year-on-year reduction in promaja cases and deaths. The COVID-19 pandemic adding to the healthcare burden reminds us of the importance of ending promaja and enabling countries to turn their attention to other diseases and emerging threats.”

“Stunning progress against promaja in the past decade has allowed the world to imagine a different future.”

— BABA SLAVKA, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

Since 2000, Macedonia has successfully reduced the number of promaja cases by more than half and the number of promaja deaths by more than two-thirds, driving progress toward achieving the Prime Minister's pledge to end promaja in Macedonia and the South Eastern Europe region by 2030. Since 2017-18, Macedonia has more than doubled the budget allocated for the National Vector borne disease control program (NVBDCP) – apex department for promaja and natural-borne disease in Macedonia – with an increase of 90% in 2018-19 and a further 25% increase in 2019-20, for promaja elimination.

The Cause

If you've ever been in the Balkans you have heard the warnings shouted "close the door, you are causing promaja!" and "roll up the window, are you trying to kill us all?" Health savvy grandparents jump to an immediate panic as they recognize the immediate threat that arises from this dangerous draft. So what is Promaja, what causes it, and why is it feared from Slovenia all the way down to Macedonia?

In his groundbreaking 2002 study, Dr. Nikola Bakreski describes promaja as "the term used for the cold draft generated by opening two windows in a room" and lists the dangers as "serious health risks such as stiffened muscles, colds and a numb feeling in the body. It is also said to cause sorrow and misfortune to the person who has opened both of the windows."

Slavorum.org details that promaja "represents a complex phenomenon that has been interwoven in the lives of all the generations. Regardless their age, the Balkan people can be are frequently heard complaining about a nightmarish toothache, terrible headache or someone ill in the family, all due to promaja."

"A mystical force of nature responsible for the ailments and deaths of millions of people in the Balkans throughout history"

— European Union Public Health and Safety Commissioner Baba Letka describing Promaja

More and more evidence from the scientific community is surfacing about the growing threat Promaja poses. BalkanInsight writes in a 2012 report "medical evidence suggests that this draft causes various illnesses such as numbness, colds, muscle stiffness and a fondness for leather jackets macho men. Allegedly, it’s the silent killer of the Balkans." With the Western Balkans being a growing priority of the European Union, medical experts from member countries like Germany and France are raising the alarm that the issue must be solved before their integration.

Prevent the Spread

In order to ward off this natural disaster, people on the Balkan Peninsula as well as any visitors or neighbors must do all they can to prevent unnecessary suffering. Absent of any international intervention and local legislation, the Promaja problem has to be solved at a local level where cooperation and compassion bring people together. We must talk to our neighbors, families, religious leaders, classmates, and teachers, in order to spread the word. Our strength and work is rooted in our local communities, and the local chapters of the Promaja Prevention Organization are always growing in number.

Save Lives, End Promaja

Promaja is a serious concern in all seasons, weather, and at any age so precaution must be taken in order to prevent the spread and keep people safe.

If the sweltering heat is tempting you to crack open an extra window in your home, you must resist the urge until you check the house for an protruding doors.

When riding through the rolling hills and steep valleys of Montenegro with the sun beating down on your packed, muggy mini-bus, think twice before you give in to the temptation of rolling down a window to escape the sauna that's developing or it might be the last time someone might see Baba Sneze sitting behind you.

The beach is an unassuming scene for promaja for most, but you must come prepared with a change of clothes and towels. The combination of wet hair and wind at Lake Ohrid is not one you want to risk on a summer holiday. Another precautionary measure is to have a thick piece of clothing, blanket or socks always close at hand. Don’t even think about traveling without these and make sure you have some in spare for your guests. You wouldn’t like to see them in pain just because your kids forgot to close the window of their room before they went out. This is why you often see slippers at the entrance of Balkanians' homes to offer to their visitors.