"At a glance: Serbia" contains a summary of issues, statistics and feature stories; for detailed local information, news and updates, go to the UNICEF Serbia website.
Polio has been eradicated from Serbia, immunization rates for the most common childhood diseases are around 90 per cent or higher, and infant and under-five mortality rates are decreasing. But investment in children’s health and education has declined by half over the past decade.
Issues facing children in Serbia
- The wars of the 1990s have created more than half a million refugees and internally displaced people.
- Actual school enrolment rates are significantly lower than official figures indicate. Two-thirds of primary schools have students in different grades taught in the same class.
- Roma children and students with special needs face challenges in access to education. Girls frequently drop out of school to marry early.
- HIV/AIDS still carries a stigma, making people reluctant to acknowledge that it is a problem. Confidential counselling and testing services are scant.
- Thousands of peacekeepers remain stationed in Kosovo, where the UN is closely involved in government of the region. Because half of Kosovo’s population is under age 25, efforts on behalf of children are vital to its future. Kosovo has become a hub of child trafficking between Eastern and Western Europe.
Activities and results for children
- Serbia expects to eliminate iodine deficiency by 2005. Eighty-four per cent of maternity units are certified as “Baby-Friendly,” promoting exclusive breastfeeding and meeting other standards that give infants a healthier start in life.
- UNICEF helped vaccinate 37,000 hard-to-reach children and women of childbearing age. Hepatitis B was recently added to the list of routine immunizations.
- UNICEF and its partners have trained hundreds of medical personnel in improved delivery of primary health-care services. More than 140,000 families benefited from a phone counselling campaign to improve parenting.
- Greater openness is leading to acknowledgement of the problem of child neglect and abuse. UNICEF helped the Serbian Ministry of Social Affairs develop protocols for social service agencies to protect children.
- UNICEF and its partners trained 5,000 teachers in active learning techniques. The Roma Education Initiative has enabled more than 2,000 Roma children to enrol in primary school.
- UNICEF and its partners have trained health-care professionals and peer educators to arm young people with knowledge about healthy lifestyles, risky sexual practices, voluntary HIV/AIDS counselling and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. UNICEF has also lent its expertise to the planning of a National HIV/AIDS strategy, and distributed 14,000 HIV test kits to Serbian hospitals.
- In Kosovo, a new juvenile justice code has been enacted, and a children’s rights unit has been established in the Ombudsperson Office. Five hospitals in Kosovo have been certified as “Baby-Friendly.”