Results of household survey show progress and disparities alike in Serbia
Key findings from the fourth round of UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator
Cluster Surveys (MICS) reveal visible progress on most indicators in
Serbia, including women’s and children’s health, early childhood
development and education.
The progress is notable both at the national level and in settlements
of the minority Roma community. But disparities are still present,
requiring continued investment and measures targeting the most
National averages mask inequities
To better understand poverty, an additional sample was added on a
particularly socially excluded group - Roma living in Roma settlements.
are indispensable for a country to be able to assess to what degree it
has been successful in providing conditions essential for the well-being
of mother and child,” said UNICEF Area Representative in Serbia Judita
However, she added: “It is not sufficient to have the national
averages, since they hide facts about various vulnerable groups, Roma
children in particular. Their position is still below the national
average, and there are also other areas which have to be paid more
attention to in the future. I hope, therefore, that these precious data
will be used for informed decision making.”
The MICS data and
database are of vital importance for the Serbian Government in
establishing priorities and targeted its budgetary resources.
Data points Following are some of the key points from the MICS data for Serbia:
- Child mortality. In Roma settlements, child
mortality dropped by 50 per cent, yet the rate is still twice the
national average – 7 per cent in the general population vs. 14 per cent
in the Roma settlements for infants; and 8 per cent vs. 15 per cent for
children under the age of five.
- Women’s health. Coverage of women during pregnancy
has increased, with a high rate of deliveries in health care
institutions for women aged 15 to 49.
- Child health and nutrition. The number of stunted
children has seen a mildly rising trend, which may result from genetic
factors with mild to moderate stunting, or inappropriate nutrition or
chronic diseases in more severe cases. The percentage of children
exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life has declined since
2005. In the Roma settlements, as many as 40 per cent of children under
the age of two do not receive milk twice a day, which is necessary for
their proper development.
- Preschool education. Coverage of children aged
three to five years in preschool has increased since 2005. Nevertheless,
only 44 per cent of children in Serbia attend the preschool programmes.
And the gaps are immense: The higher the social status, the higher the
percentage of kindergarten attendance. Among poor families, the
percentage reaches only a half of the national average, and for Roma
children it is extremely low at just 8 per cent.
- Involvement of adults. Adults are now more involved
in activities stimulating early development of children than in 2005,
with markedly increased involvement of fathers (as much as 78 per cent).
- Accessibility of books for children. Three quarters of children
under five have at least three children’s books. While no gender
differentials are observed, urban children appear to have greater access
to children’s books than those living in rural households.
- Primary education. The percentage of Roma
school-age children who attend first grade has increased by 25 per cent
over the last five years. Still, disparities between the general
population and the poorest Roma children are marked in terms of
enrolment and even more prominent in attendance, as well as in the
percentage of children completing their primary education.
- Early marriage. As many as 15 per cent of Roma
girls aged 15 to 19 were married before the age of 15, and over one
third have their first child before turning 18. This situation is
reflected in attendance rate in primary school by girls from Roma
settlements, who usually leave school around the age of 12.
- Child discipline. Less than 30 per cent of children
are brought up exclusively non-violent methods. As many as two thirds
of children aged 2 to 14 have experienced some kind of psychological
aggression or physical violence, which is more common among children
from Roma communities.
- HIV Prevention. Three out of four women aged 15 to
49 know where to be tested for HIV, but the increase is minor – at 4 per
cent – in comparison with 2005. While knowledge about testing has
increased by as much as 8 per cent among Roma women, the total
proportion of women who are actually tested is still very low, at 4 per
A tool to monitor progress
intervals of about five years since its launch in 1995, MICS has been
used as a monitoring tool in some 100 countries worldwide. The global
survey’s fourth round – known as MICS4 – is providing data on the
respective countries’ progress towards the Millennium Development Goals
and other national and international targets.
In Serbia, the survey was conducted by the Republican Statistical Office and UNICEF.
To download the report, please click here.
For more information on the global MICS project, please visit http://www.childinfo.org.