UNICEF works with its partners in empowering families and communities to help every child get the best start in life. These efforts promote survival, growth and development in the critical early childhood years by influencing key household and community practices and addressing the deep-rooted and complex social and economic factors that influence child-rearing practices.
UNICEF’s communication programmes apply state-of-the-art knowledge to social and behaviour change, complementing this with national and local data gathered through participatory processes. This is vital to choosing strategies that are appropriate to particular situations, including emergencies.
Maximum effect from multiple communication approaches
UNICEF and our partners have identified three communication approaches, which, when combined, result in the greatest impact. These are: communication campaigns, parent and caregiver education, and building community capacity.
Through the use of mass media, and traditional and interpersonal communication channels, families and caregivers are equipped with the information to take decisions and actions that improve their children’s survival, growth and development. For example communication campaigns regularly target key household and community practices, such as proper hygiene, the multiple benefits of breastfeeding exclusively for six months, using insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria, and the importance of using iodized salt to avoid iodine deficiency disorders.
Recent data show that a large percentage of children die at home because their parents and caregivers cannot recognize the signs of common childhood illnesses and therefore do not seek appropriate care. Parents and caregivers also lack the skills to administer life-saving home treatment, such as oral rehydration therapy to children with diarrhoea. In response, UNICEF and our partners have intensified parent and caregiver education, including training on children’s psychosocial development.
UNICEF and our partners also build community capacity and social support to help families and caregivers give their children the best start in life. Community workers are, for example, trained in specific health-related areas such as malaria, nutrition and water and environmental sanitation. These workers, who are mostly volunteers, assist parents and caregivers in their homes and in community-based child centres.