Support for pregnant women and mothers with babies at Ušivak
“We feel safe, children have a place to play, and food and clothing parcels mean a lot to us, too”
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Aisha* and her sons have travelled a long journey from Afghanistan, through Iran, Turkey, Greece, Albania and Montenegro, to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where they have been staying for five months at the Ušivak Temporary Reception Centre near the country’s capital Sarajevo. Every day Aisha comes with her younger son to the UNICEF Mother and Baby Corner, while her older son is either at school or in the Children’s Corner, where he does homework or prepares for school assignments.
“It’s nice here and I’m very happy to have a place where I can bring my son to play, hang out with other kids and get everything he needs, and I’m also happy because my older son is going to school. We feel safe here, and food and clothing parcels for children mean a lot to us, too” she tells us, adding that she wants to go to Germany or some other European country. She is a hairdresser by profession, and dreams of having her own hair salon:
“Like any mother, I want to provide everything I can for my children, and above all I want them to go to school.”
Another user of the Mother and Baby Corner is Mariam*, who arrived less than a month ago from Guinea, fleeing a recent conflict, along with her one-and-a-half-year-old boy. She is in her third month of pregnancy.
“We were warmly welcomed and everyone here is very kind to us. We got clothes and food. We come here every day. My boy plays with his peers and he likes it here. We’re satisfied,” says Mariam and adds that she is not planning to move on for the moment, but, since she speaks French, she would like to see herself in France in the near future.
“I want the best for my child, for him to live in safety and to go to the best school because that’s very important. If he goes to school, he will have better prospects in life and a better future.”
Paediatric nurse Azra Pljevljak Kečević is in the Corner every day, providing support to pregnant women and mothers with babies:
“In this Corner, moms can get advice, spend time with their children and learn something useful. I arrange the schedule for bathing and personal hygiene, and distribution of food for children. Also, if a child is injured or we notice they have health problems, we refer them to a doctor.
Psychological support, too, is very important for pregnant women and mothers with babies, as well as for the children themselves, so the Corner also has a psychologist on staff:
“As part of the daily activities at the Corner, we provide education and psychosocial support for mothers and children. This is very important because they come from different countries and are on the move, so it is essential that we provide them with some kind of adaptation that best meets their current needs,” says Majda Gračić Jogunčić, adding that in cooperation with her colleague Azra she is also working on identifying possible changes in children’s behaviour. She says their main goal is to make mothers and children feel safe:
“We are here to provide a natural and warm atmosphere for all children and mothers, and the experience so far has shown that they like it very much here in the Corner. It is important that we monitor their growth and development and listen to their daily needs.”
UNICEF Deputy Representative for BiH Veronika Vashchenko says UNICEF continuously supports the provision of paediatric services, nutrition for infants and young children and counselling for refugee and migrant parents and children who are staying in temporary reception centres.
“Thanks to the financial support of the EU General Directorate of Health (DG Health), in 2021 more than 2,500 children benefited from improved access to paediatric health care and more than 1,800 infants, children and parents had access to health and nutrition services through mother and baby corners,” says Veronika Vashchenko, emphasizing the importance of joint action on the ground:
“In order to ensure protection and access to basic humanitarian aid for families with children, UNICEF, together with its implementing partner World Vision and in cooperation with other agencies and authorities, has established a mother and baby corner in TRC Ušivak so as to ensure that mothers of children under five would have a private and safe breastfeeding space and get access to mental health and psychosocial support services as well as infant and young child feeding counselling and breastfeeding support.”
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of interviewees.