A Mother and baby corner - a place of health and serenity
“Milos was born at a Reception centre, here in Serbia. We have been changing addresses ever since. We are currently staying at the Asylum centre in Belgrade. These are all difficult circumstances, where I, as a mother, don’t set the rules. And I find it very difficult.” Mother with a baby Sharife and her son Shahir Milos in the mother and baby corner in Belgrade, Serbia. That’s why Sharife is happy every time she visits the Mother and baby corner. The nearby Community centre, run by the humanitarian organization ADRA, houses just such a mother and baby corner, whose work is supported by UNICEF through the project ‘Strengthening Refugee and Migrant Children's Health Status in Southern and South-Eastern Europe’, co-funded by the Health Programme of the European Union (the ‘RM Child-Health’ initiative). Here, mothers can spend time in a safe space for women, change their babies’ clothes and nappies, access hygiene items for their children, breastfeed in privacy and put their children down for naps, as well as participate in workshops. And most importantly, because they are living in challenging circumstances, they can talk to a doctor about the nutrition, hygiene and early childhood development and immunization of their small child, but also about their own health and the health of older children. This is particularly crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. Milos is learning through play in the Mother and baby corner. Milos is learning through play in the Mother and baby corner. The first piece of advice that mothers receive in the Mother and baby corner is always about breastfeeding – a source of food that is always available, hygienically safe and nutritious, and which boosts a child's immunity. “Breast milk provides all the nutrients a baby needs, but it also stimulates development [and] develops immunity. It helps the child to calm down, sleep better and be settled. This also helps me be calm,” explains Sharife with a smile on her face. Sharife is an experienced mother. Even so, she is very grateful for the advice she has received from the doctor at the Mother and baby corner. When Milos was six months old, she introduced solid food into his diet, while she continued to breastfeed. She recalls that Milos’s first solid food was rice cereal, and then later on vegetables, fruits and meat. The Mother and baby corner is a safe space where Milos and his mother can spend quality time together. The Mother and baby corner is a safe space where Milos and his mother can spend quality time together. “Milos likes best the carrot and apple puree I make for his snack,” explains Sharife. The needs of refugee and migrant women, according to social worker Andja Petrovic, have shaped the development of ADRA’s Community centre, where they would, as a rule of thumb, almost always come with their children. In order for women to be able to attend creative, recreational and educational workshops at the Women's centre, they needed a Child-friendly space for older children and a Mother and baby corner for women with infants. These spaces make it possible for mothers to participate in language classes, sports activities, creative workshops and, most importantly, in workshops about women's health and rights, while their children are taken care of and safe. In these challenging times, mothers really appreciate the chance to talk to a doctor about the health status of their children. “The most important thing is that all the advice from our doctor is in line with their economic circumstances and current living situation [in Reception centres],” explains Andja. “The advice is tailored to their life and I think they particularly like that, because they can see that their situation is acknowledged. Because when they go to a doctor [in other facilities], they get advice that they can’t follow because they don’t have the [living] conditions for that.” Dr Zivica Lukic explains that she talks to mothers mostly about nutrition, hygiene and how to respond to their babies’ needs. “We support mothers to establish and maintain breastfeeding, as it has not only economic benefits, but for mothers it also has emotional and physical ones. We know how healthy breastfeeding is for the child, but it is equally healthy for the mother, because it soothes and creates a strong bond between mother and child. When the baby is six months old, it’s necessary to introduce solid foods. I advise [the introduction of] vegetables that can be pureed well, such as potatoes and carrots, [as well as] rice.”
With financial support from the European Union UNICEF launches the ‘RM Child-Health’ project to strengthen vulnerable refugee and migrant children’s health
– Under the Health Programme of the European Union, the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety has committed a project grant to UNICEF to support work ensuring refugee and migrant children and their families have access to quality health care and accurate health information in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Spain, Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia. Refugee and migrant children and their families often have more health-related risks and face a number of barriers accessing quality health care. Many children and families also live with severe emotional distress due to the trauma of fleeing home, undertaking dangerous journeys and experiencing abuse and exploitation, including sexual and gender-based violence. The global COVID19 pandemic further exacerbates these health challenges. “With the ongoing pandemic, protecting every child and adult’s right to health care and accurate heath information is paramount. This collaboration with the EU Health Programme will help ensure the most vulnerable refugee and migrant children will have better access to primary healthcare services, psychosocial support as well as violence prevention and response services,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for the Refuge and Migrant Response in Europe, Ms. Afshan Khan. The project ‘RM Child-Health’ will help improve the health of refugee and migrant children by improving their access to life-saving immunizations, mental health and psychosocial support, gender-based violence prevention and response activities as well as maternal and newborn health care and nutrition support. Information materials on health-related risks and services available for refugee and migrant populations will be created and shared. Medical interpreters and cultural mediators will be deployed to support communication between children and families and health care providers. The project ‘RM Child-Health’ will also support training programmes so frontline health care workers can better respond to the specific needs of refugee and migrant children and their families. In parallel, national health authorities will benefit from technical support to develop, update and improve the implementation of health policies and address bottlenecks in national health systems that currently prevent refugee and migrant children from accessing services. Refugee mother feeding her baby at ADRA community centre in Belgrade. UNICEF/UNI220342/Pancic
Safeguarding the health of refugee and migrant children during COVID-19
, the initiative has supported UNICEF’s efforts to improve the immunization process for refugee children and migrants by strengthening the assessment and monitoring process. As a result of such efforts, refugees and migrants have been included in the national COVID-19 Immunization Plan.
UNICEF appeals for $3.9 billion in emergency assistance for 41 million children affected by conflict or disaster
Millions of children living in countries affected by conflict and disaster lack access to vital child protection services, putting their safety, well-being and futures at risk, UNICEF warned today as it appealed for $3.9 billion to support its work for children in humanitarian crises . UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children sets out the agency’s 2019 appeal and its efforts to provide 41 million children with access to safe water, nutrition, education, health and protection in 59 countries across the globe. Funding for child protection programmes accounts for $385 million of the overall appeal, including almost $121 million for protection services for children affected by the Syria crisis. “Today millions of children living through conflict or disaster are suffering horrific levels of violence, distress and trauma,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “The impact of our child protection work cannot be overstated. When children do not have safe places to play, when they cannot be reunited with their families, when they do not receive psychosocial support, they will not heal from the unseen scars of war.” UNICEF estimates that more than 34 million children living through conflict and disaster lack access to child protection services, including 6.6 million children in Yemen, 5.5 million children in Syria and 4 million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC ). Child protection services include all efforts to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect, exploitation, trauma and violence. UNICEF also works to ensure that the protection of children is central to all other areas of the organisation’s humanitarian programmes, including water, sanitation and hygiene, education and other areas of work by identifying, mitigating and responding to potential dangers to children’s safety and wellbeing. However, funding constraints, as well as other challenges including warring parties’ growing disregard for international humanitarian law and the denial of humanitarian access, mean that aid agencies’ capacity to protect children is severely limited. In the DRC, for example, UNICEF received just a third of the $21 million required for child protection programmes in 2018, while around one-fifth of child protection funding for Syrian children remained unmet. “Providing these children with the support they need is critical, but without significant and sustained international action, many will continue to fall through the cracks,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes. “The international community should commit to supporting the protection of children in emergencies.” 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades, threatening the safety and wellbeing of millions of children. UNICEF’s appeal comes one month after the children’s agency said that the world is failing to protect children living in conflict around the world, with catastrophic consequences. Children who are continuously exposed to violence or conflict, especially at a young age, are at risk of living in a state of toxic stress – a condition that, without the right support can lead to negative life-long consequences for their cognitive, social and emotional development. Some children impacted by war, displacement and other traumatic events – such as sexual and gender-based violence – require specialized care to help them cope and recover. The five largest individual appeals are for Syrian refugees and host communities in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey (US$ 904 million); Yemen (US$ 542.3 million); The Democratic Republic of the Congo (US$ 326.1 million); Syria (US$ 319.8 million) and South Sudan (US$ 179.2 million). ### Notes to editors: In total, working alongside its partners, UNICEF aims to: Provide 4 million children and caregivers with access to psychosocial support; Provide almost 43 million people with access to safe water; Reach 10.1 million children with formal or non-formal basic education; Immunize 10.3 million children against measles; Treat 4.2 million children with severe acute malnutrition. In the first 10 months of 2018, as a result of UNICEF’s support: 3.1 million children and caregivers received psychosocial support; 35.3 million people had access to safe water; 5.9 million children accessed some form of education; 4.7 million children were vaccinated against measles; 2.6 million children were treated for severe acute malnutrition. Photos and multimedia materials are available for download here: https://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AMZIFI7QW8B Humanitarian Action for Children 2019 and individual appeals can be found here: https://uni.cf/HAC_2019 On 23 September 2018 in Ukraine, Masha Khromchenko, 11, stands in the kindergarten class room that took a direct hit from a shell Novotoshkivske in the Luhansk region. The shell caused massive damage to the facility and surrounding residential area. UNICEF/UN0243152/Morris VII Photo On 23 September 2018 in Ukraine, Masha Khromchenko, 11, stands in the kindergarten class room that took a direct hit from a shell Novotoshkivske in the Luhansk region. The shell caused massive damage to the facility and surrounding residential area.
Strengthening the implementation of health policies
The initiative also promotes and supports multi-disciplinary approaches and teams to address the complex causes of health problems among refugee and migrant children – from trauma, anxiety and over-crowded conditions, to lack of hygiene facilities and immunization. As a result, support from the ‘RM Child-health’ initiative builds trust between refugee and migrant families and health providers. At the Centre for refugees and migrants near Bela Palanka in south-eastern Serbia, for example, the needs of refugee and migrant women have shaped the development of the Community Centre run by ADRA, with its Mother and Baby Corner for women with infants. Here, women can take part in language classes, sports activities and, crucially, in workshops about their own health and rights. “ The most important thing is that all the advice from our doctor is in line with their economic circumstances and current living situation [in Reception centres],” explains social worker Andja Petrovic. “The advice is tailored to their life and I think they particularly like that, because they can see that their situation is acknowledged. Because when they go to a doctor [in other facilities], they get advice that they can’t follow because they don’t have the living conditions for it.” Also in Serbia, funding from the ‘RM Child-health Initiative’ supports work by UNICEF and the Institute of Mental Health that looks beyond the provision of basic health care to assess the scale and nature of substance abuse among refugee and migrant communities. This cutting-edge field research will guide the development of materials and capacity building specifically for health and community workers who are in regular contact with young refugees and migrants, helping these workers to identify and tackle substance abuse by connecting children and youth to support services. As one researcher involved in the research commented: “Most of those children have spent several years without a home or any sense of stability. They can't make a single plan about the future since everything in their life is so uncertain. I can't begin to imagine how frightening that is.” By building greater rapport between frontline workers and children, and by equipping those workers with the support, skills and resources they need, the ‘RM Child-health’ initiative is helping to transform health policies into health practice. This vital work has been particularly crucial in 2020, as frontline workers have had to confront – and adapt to – the greatest public health crisis in living memory: the COVID-19 pandemic. Logo This story is part of the Project ‘Strengthening Refugee and Migrant Children’s Health Status in Southern and South Eastern Europe’, Co-funded by the Health Programme of the European Union (the ‘RM Child-Health’ initiative).It represents the views of the author only and is her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.