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As the Flying High For Kids Balloon sailed the skies of Prishtina, UNICEF Kosovo launched the strategy on investing in the first 1000 days of a child’s life

PRISTINA, 8 May 2017—The UNICEF-branded ‘Flying High for Kids’ Balloon was seen sailing the skies of Prishtina this Saturday afternoon. More than 300 children—including those from non-majority communities and those with disabilities—parents, caregivers, nurses, doctors, educators gathered to witness the much-anticipated takeoff of the hot-air balloon, which served as a symbol for children to dare to fly high and follow their dreams.

The event also marked the launching of UNICEF Kosovo’s strategy on investing in the first 1000 days of a child’s life. This strategy focuses on ways of improving parental practices in the areas of exclusive breastfeeding, right nutrition, immunization and child care and stimulation, and emphasizing increased fathers’ involvement in child care and development.

The strategy is expected to influence knowledge, understanding, attitudes and practices especially of fathers, mothers, and nurses, midwifes, educators, doctors, media, and institutions for the best interest of the child.

It is also one of the change strategies that will turn national plans into action and results for children in collaboration with Ministry of Health policies, Ministry of education, Science and technology, National Assembly of Kosovo and Strategic Planning Office under Prime Minister’s Office.

“The early years in the life of children are very important. The strategy that we are launching focuses on early childhood care, promoting exclusive breastfeeding and right nutrition,” said Brandao Co, Head of UNICEF Kosovo Office. “We want the community to understand how important it is investing in early childhood. Investing in children is investing in the future and prosperity of Kosovo.”

Imet Rrahmani, the Minister for Health highlighted the importance of investing in the first 1000 days of a child’s life saying that young children in the earliest years need the right care and nutrition. “The Ministry of Health has mother and child health as one of its main priorities,” Rrahmani said. “The results we have achieved would not be possible without the health workers whose priority is mother and child health.”

“Furthermore,” Rrahmani added, “the success in terms of vaccination of children and home visiting practices would not be possible without the support of UNICEF.”

Likewise, Shpend Ahmeti, the Mayor of Prishtina said that the Municipality is focusing much of their efforts in early childhood education. “Studies show that the best interventions for children are when they are 0-3 and 3-6 years old. The success of a country depends on these interventions during early childhood that we do as institutions,” Ahmeti said. “As a Municipality, we are aware of this, and are doing our best to provide parents with affordable, quality kindergartens.”

The Flying High For Kids World Balloon Project is a not-for-profit project in support of UNICEF, which started in December 2013. It is an overland hot air ballooning journey through more than 100 countries with an aim of raising awareness and funds for UNICEF’s work. 

“I travel around the world with a balloon and I inspire children to follow their dreams,” said Andrew Parker from New Zealand, director and chief volunteer of the UNICEF project Flying High for Kids. “I wanted to be a pilot since I was 6 years old, and now I want to pass this message on to kids that they can follow whatever dreams they may have and do as I have done.”

The Flying High Balloon event gained significant media attention with its messages of promoting inclusiveness of the most vulnerable children, raising awareness about children’s right to education and most importantly, encouraging kids to follow their dreams.

Later during the event, parents and caregivers with their children had the chance to sit down with nurses and talk about the importance of regular immunization and breast-feeding, as well as attend a discussion by the ‘Be a Man’ club on the role of fathers in childhood development.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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