A life-saving knock on the door
Every child deserves the best start in life, but many children in Kosovo still struggle to access the health care they need to survive and thrive. Children from poor households, rural areas, and those from the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities face particular challenges. For the past seven years UNICEF and the Ministry of Health have been developing the Universal Progressive Home Visiting programme, which has been improving access to primary healthcare for pregnant women and children under the age of three – especially those who are most vulnerable. Training of Nurses on Home Visiting Programme With the support of the European Union, UNICEF, and the Ministry of Health jointly organized trainings for health professionals from 36 municipalities, including Serbian majority municipalities, to build their capacity to deliver quality health care for children in the critical period of 0-3 years, where they are developing at their fastest rate. Besa Obertinca - Nurse Besa Obertinca is a family nurse. Family nurses visit women at home twice during their pregnancy and five times between their child’s birth and third birthday, with extra visits when necessary. They give advice about nutrition, check that children are meeting their development milestones and promote vaccinations. “Everything I learned in the training doesn’t just help me grow as a professional, it benefits families, especially their children”, says Dr. Besa. Emine Hykolli Sefa - Nurse Emine Hykolli Sefa- Nurse - In 2021, 15,456 children and 2,765 pregnant women received home visits from nurses like Emine Hykolli Sefa. At the most recent training, she learnt about the importance of supporting mental health from a child psychologist. “If we want to have a healthy society, we need to protect children against trauma and build their resilience. What happens during childhood impacts every stage of life”, says Emine. Zekije Osmani Shala Zekije Osmani - Gynecologist - Doctors are critical supporters of the home visiting programme, which is now implemented in 80 per cent of municipalities in Kosovo. Zekie Osmani is a gynecologist who took part in the most recent eight-day training. She said it broadened her understanding of her role. “The focus of my work will no longer be only on the mother’s health but also on the child’s health and their healthy development”, says Dr. Zekije. Besa Obertinca - Nurse Zyrafete Hashani Hoti is a family medicine specialist. She is one of the 200 doctors, nurses, educators, and social workers UNICEF has trained this year on how to best care for children aged 0-3. “If I knew the usefulness of this training, I would have started much earlier.” The training program strengthens capacities of health professionals engaged in the home visiting programme, to improve the way they work with families and effectively support them to provide the best start in life to their children. Home Visiting Nurse during her visit at a family in Suhareke Throughout the training comprised of 12 modules, participants get to learn skills and knowledge on the importance of early childhood years, the new role of the home visitors, developmental monitoring and screening, children with disabilities and developmental difficulties, parental wellbeing, engagement of fathers in parenting, responsive feeding, communication skills, routine immunization, gender socialization, working against stigma and discrimination, and collaborating with other sectors. These home visiting trainings are organized by the Ministry of Health and with technical support from UNICEF as part of the European Union’s assistance package for Western Balkans in response to COVID-19.