Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on children and families in the Western Balkans and Türkiye
There is abundant evidence that children bear a heavy burden resulting from disrupted essential services, increased social isolation, and loss of family income. In pandemic times, parents and caregivers are more likely to feel overwhelmed with providing stimulation and care for their young children and delay seeking prompt medical attention for children. Childhood immunization and other basic services were often suspended. School closures can mean a year of lost learning and children become more susceptible to dropping out. Uncertainties have created family distress, which contributes to serious mental health issues, especially among children who are vulnerable to violence and abuse. The pandemic has deepened pre-existing vulnerabilities of children with disabilities and children living in poverty. In 2021, UNICEF and the European Commission Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations launched a two-year initiative to strengthen national health, education, early childhood development, and child protection systems to ensure continuity in the provision of core services for vulnerable children and their families in the immediate and the longer-term recovery response to COVID-19. The initiative is being implemented in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*  , Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Türkiye.