Our goals for children
Half of all deaths among children under the age of five in the Region occur in the first month of life. 400,000 children under the age of one have not received the recommended three doses of DTP vaccine, and immunization rates are falling because of system failures and vaccine hesitancy. Less than 30 per cent of Roma children are fully immunized in parts of the Balkan countries. Only 32 per cent of babies in the Region are exclusively breastfed during their first six months of life – one of the lowest rates worldwide.
30 years of child rights: Historic gains and undeniable achievements, but little progress for the world’s poorest children - UNICEF
Although more children are immunized than ever before, a slowdown in immunisation coverage rates over the past decade is threatening to reverse hard-won gain in children’s health:
UNICEF commemorates 70 years of tireless work for the world’s most vulnerable children
– On the 70th anniversary of its founding, UNICEF celebrates the immense progress made for the world’s children – and renews the urgent call to reach millions of children whose lives and futures are endangered by conflict, crisis, poverty, inequality and discrimination. “UNICEF was founded after World War II to bring help and hope to all children at risk or in need – no matter which country they lived in or what role that country played in the war. Our mission is no less urgent and universal today,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “With so many children around the world in so much need, we are recommitting ourselves to delivering results for every child.” The organization was established by the United Nations General Assembly to help children in post-war Europe, China and the Middle East. Funded entirely through voluntary contributions from governments, civil society, the private sector and concerned citizens, it rapidly expanded its reach and by 1955 was working for children in more than 90 countries. Today, UNICEF is the world’s largest children’s organization, working with partners in 190 countries and territories and through the efforts of 13,000 national and international staff to reach every child. UNICEF’s relentless engagement in the world’s toughest places has helped create remarkable progress for children in recent decades. The number of children dying before their fifth birthdays has been more than halved in the past 25 years. Hundreds of millions of children have been lifted out of poverty. Out-of-school rates among primary-school-aged children have been reduced by more than 40 per cent since 1990. In the 1940s, UNICEF provided emergency nutrition aid, mainly in the form of milk, to children in post-war Europe. In 2015, the organization and its partners treated 2.9 million children for severe acute malnutrition worldwide. In the 1950s, UNICEF led its first immunization campaigns against diseases such as tuberculosis and yaws. In 2015, the organization procured 2.8 billion doses of vaccines, and with its partners helping to protect 45 per cent of children under 5 years old worldwide from a range of deadly diseases. In 1953, UNICEF launched its first water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. Between 1990 and 2015, 2.6 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources and 2.1 billion gained access to improved sanitation facilities. In 1961, UNICEF expanded its programmatic focus to include children’s education. In 2015, UNICEF and its partners provided 7.5 million children aged 3 to 18 with access to formal or non-formal basic education. In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which specifies that all children should be registered at birth to establish their identity under the law and thus to safeguard their rights. In 2015, UNICEF supported the registration of more than 9.7 million children’s births in 54 countries. In 1998, UNICEF became a founding member of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to support malaria treatment and research, and expand prevention measures such as long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets. In 2015, UNICEF procured 22.3 million bed nets to protect children and families in 30 countries. Since its founding, UNICEF has responded to thousands of humanitarian emergencies affecting children. In 2015, UNICEF and partners vaccinated 11.3 million children against measles in countries affected by crisis; provided 4 million children in emergency situations with access to formal or non-formal basic education; and provided psychosocial support for 2 million children caught in conflicts and natural disasters. Despite this impressive progress, millions of children are still being left behind because they live in poverty or in hard-to-reach communities, because of their gender, race, religion, ethnic group, or because they have a disability. Nearly 250 million children are growing up in countries affected by conflict and nearly 50 million children have been uprooted from their homes. “UNICEF’s vision for the next 70 years is a world in which our work is no longer necessary -- a world in which every child is healthy, safe, educated, cared for and protected … and all children can make the most of their potential,” said Lake. “It’s the right thing to do, and the surest path to a better future for us all.”
Strengthening national health capacity for refugee and migrant children
At first glance, helping a 10-year girl from Iran, now living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, get a new pair of glasses might seem a simple thing. For Maisa, however, this is the end result of a continuum of intensive support, from identifying a girl who struggles with an eye condition, to connecting her to a skilled ophthalmologist. And now Maisa stands in front of a mirror, trying on the glasses that will enhance her life, learning and play. Such a momentous day is only possible when an established health system is equipped to accommodate and respond to the complex needs of refugee and migrant children. Support from the ‘RM Child-Health’ initiative aims to reinforce and enhance health systems across five European countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Serbia) so that these systems can deliver the high-quality services that are the right of every child – and that every child needs, regardless of their origins. The aim: to ensure that health systems catch every refugee and migrant child who is in danger of slipping through the gaps. And there are additional benefits: a health system that works for these vulnerable and excluded children is a health system that works for every child, and that can reach those who are so often the very hardest to reach. This 24-month, €4.3 million initiative, which was launched in January 2020 by the European Union Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, aims to strengthen the capacity of health systems to deliver health care to refugee and migrant children. That means ensuring access to life-saving immunization, to mental health and psycho-social support, and services to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, as well as maternal and new-born health care and nutrition. Stronger health systems are needed to overcome the bottlenecks that confront so many refugee and migrant families when they try to access health care. “ The profound challenges that often confront populations – especially children – on the move can include cultural and language barriers, stigma and discrimination on the part of health providers, and a lack of detailed medical records or paperwork,” says Dr. Basil Rodriques, UNICEF Regional Health Advisor. “They may also have their own reasons to distrust state-provided services, including fears of deportation.”