The European Union and UNICEF launch a programme to mitigate the impact of COVID-19

The support will ensure the continuity of core health, child protection and educational services for children and their families

A girl studying at home
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2020
31 March 2021

BRUSSELS/GENEVA, 31 March 2021 – The European Union (EU) and UNICEF started a €5 million programme to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable children and families in the Western Balkans and in Turkey. Partnership efforts will provide some 490,000 children and parents with better access to public services that promote early childhood development, education, health, and protection as part of the COVID-19 recovery.

UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, Ms. Afshan Khan, said, In the  Western Balkans and Turkey, UNICEF’s collaboration with the European Union is intended to safeguard children’s right to education, health, and protection and ensure that national systems delivering these services are more equitable, inclusive and meet the needs of the most vulnerable children and parents. Looking at the period of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, this programme is intended to contribute to building more resilient systems in these countries.”

“We cannot afford a generation COVID. With this programme we are helping to provide continued access to essential childcare services to almost half a million children and parents. This will include providing digital tools and quality digital content to families in remote areas, supporting the continuation of health and nutrition services, and improving the availably of Early Childhood Development services. This is part of wider EU efforts to support the Western Balkans and Turkey in their response to the pandemic and lessen the impact it has on the most vulnerable groups,” said Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for Western Balkans, Directorate General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

The EU-UNICEF multi-sectoral programme will strengthen efforts in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey in order to improve access to core services, introduce new types of support for children and families, and build capacities of frontline workers across sectors.

In Montenegro, as part of this partnership, the focus is on countering vaccine hesitancy and misinformation and strengthening the public health system. By improving the capacities of the health professionals to build trust among parents in routine immunization, pediatricians and nurses can help increase vaccine coverage rates in Montenegro which are currently critically low. 

In cooperation with the education sector, around 1200 teachers will receive trainings to provide every child with quality inclusive education through digital tools - with a special focus on the needs of children with disabilities, children who live in poverty and children from Roma communities.  The goal of these trainings is that teachers can organize education in a quality way while the crisis lasts and beyond, so they can motivate children to continue to learn and prevent school drop out. 

Financing for the programme is part of the EU’s assistance package for the Western Balkans in response to COVID-19, which currently exceeds €3.3 billion. Team Europe has also made a contribution of €2.2 billion for COVAX, including €1 billion EU funds.


*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.