Ensuring that Every Child has the Best Start in Life.
To ensure that every child receives the best start in life, we work to provide a continuum of care, from conception and birth to early childhood.
Despite the decreasing trends in child mortality, the progress made has been uneven. Children face many challenges from conception through their early childhood years that translate into lower life expectancy. In fact, child health indicators in Kosovo are still among the poorest in the region, pointing to gaps in both access and quality of care.
The infant and neonatal mortality rates among Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities remain three times higher that of the general population (41 per 1,000 live births and 29 per 1,000 live births respectively). According to MICS, 79% of children 24-35 months old are fully immunized and protected from vaccine preventable diseases, whereas Exclusive breastfeeding rate is 40%.
Health outcomes for non-majority communities Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian children is even worse. Immunization coverage among these communities’ children is much lower, and only 30 percent of children are fully immunized.
MICS has concluded also that the nutrition status of children remains a public health concern, with 14.6% of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children under five years are stunted and 2.5% severely stunted.
The issue of children with disability is not fully mainstreamed into the priorities of the health care system while the medicalization of disability is still a reality in Kosovo.
The health sector continues to be underfunded and the available funds are not efficiently managed. The allocation of budget to health sector is considered the lowest in the region with (2.6% of GDP – 2013). The budget is allocated and spent mostly on curative and hospital care, leaving less to be spent on preventative and primary health care.
We work to reach every child, including the most vulnerable and poorest groups: people living in the most remote areas with little access to healthcare services; children with disabilities; and the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.
UNICEF’s health programme addresses inequities, improves health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable children and families and achieves equitable results for children.
Home Visiting: Strengthening the Local Health System
Promoting comprehensive young child health and development is one of our top priorities.
Home visiting is considered one of the most tangible approach to providing critical support and capacity building to families and linking them with health, education and social services in the community in order to improve young child wellbeing and mother’s health. As part of the on-going health sector reform process, the Ministry of Health, supported by UNICEF, has introduced the Home Visiting approach, which brings services into home for families who face obstacles in seeking out services within the community.
The Home visiting programme addresses inequities, improves health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable children and families and achieves equitable results for children. The initiative addresses inequalities and contributes to make the municipal family medicine systems more responsive and accountable for child and mother health.
The Health sector plays an important role in reaching children under three years of age, and utilizes home visits to expand reach to all families including marginalized and young children, providing them with crucial support in aspects of child development such as health, nutrition, responsive care giving, early learning and social protection through a multi sectorial approach.
Furthermore, home visits contribute to establishing systematic screenings of children at risk of developmental delay and to facilitate early identification of children with disability.
The Home Visiting initiative is currently being implemented in 16 Municipalities in Kosovo.
Influencing policy and legislation to improve mother and child well-being
One of the most cost-effective interventions to reduce micronutrient deficiency among mothers and children is the fortification of flour with iron and folic acid. UNICEF has provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development for the promotion of legislation to ensure flour fortification with iron and folic acid meets global standards. This cost-effective intervention is expected to improve individuals’ capacity and productivity, assist in children’s physical and mental development, and improve the health of pregnant women, including those from the poorest families.
Immunization and Exclusive Breastfeeding
Every child has a right to immunization with priority given to the most vulnerable.
Childhood diseases can put the life and development of children at risk, or can lead to disability. Vaccines are there to protect children for preventable diseases and offer them the chance for a healthy life.
UNICEF supports the procurement of and children’s access to quality life- saving vaccines, contributing to the protection of 140,000 children up to 18 years of age.
The early years are considered the most important developmental phase with lifelong impact on health, development, and well-being, and exclusive breastfeeding is the best way to ensure proper early development of newborns.
Breastfeeding creates a special bond between mother and baby and the interaction between the mother and child during breastfeeding has positive repercussions for life, in terms of stimulation, behaviour, speech, sense of wellbeing and security and how the child relates to other people.
Breastfeeding helps provide children everywhere with the healthiest start in life. It acts as the child’s first vaccine by providing antibodies. It contributes to healthy growth and development; strong brain initial capacity and protecting children during their critical first two years, as well as later in life.
We implement behaviour-change interventions to promote mother and child wellbeing and other practices for adequate child care and development. These activities also include implementation of outreach health education sessions, targeting all ethnicities, through volunteers of Red Cross of Kosovo.
We partner with different stakeholders including the media to jointly observe Immunization and Breastfeeding Weeks as an opportunity to sensitize and disseminate information on their lifelong benefits.
UNICEF Kosovo continues to work with all stakeholders to ensure that every child is protected and has a right to quality health services.