From left at presentation of preliminary data: Dragan Vukmirovic, Ph.D., Director of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia; Judita Reichenberg, UNICEF Area Representative in Serbia; and Dragana Djokovic Papic, Head of the Division for Social Indicators, Justice and Gender statistics of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia.
BELGRADE, Serbia, 20 July 2011 – Preliminary results from UNICEF’s latest international household survey suggest 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 vulnerable children.
National averages mask inequities
These early findings are from the fourth round of UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), which have been under way in dozens of countries since 2009. The full report with final data on the situation of children and women in Serbia will be available in late autumn.
“Data 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 Reichenberg.
However, she added: “It is not sufficient to have the national averages, since they hide facts about various vulnerable groups. 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.”
Preliminary data points
Following are some of the key points from the preliminary 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. It is, however, of concern that about 20 per cent of households with children under five do not have a single children’s book.
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 14 per cent of Roma girls aged 15 to 19 were married before the age of 15, and 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 10 per cent.
According to preliminary survey results from Serbia, as many as 14 per cent of Roma girls aged 15 to 19 were married before the age of 15, and one third have their first child before turning 18.
A tool to monitor progress
Conducted in 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 last year by the country’s Statistical Office and UNICEF. The MICS data and database are of vital importance for the Serbian Government in establishing priorities and targeted its budgetary resources.