Health and Nutrition

UNICEF is working to ensure greater access to quality, integrated and inclusive health care for all children.

A mother holds a child while speaking with a doctor, as part of the examination process before the child receives a vaccine shot.
UNICEF/2017/Georgiev

The challenge

While significant progress in the development of health systems has been made since the country declared its independence, setbacks in systems and service delivery have led to gaps for some children. Many challenges remain to making sure all children have a fair chance to survive and thrive.

These challenges are exemplified in the increasing infant mortality rate – one of the highest in the region. Challenges are also seen in decreased immunization coverage, leaving children vulnerable to easily preventable diseases. New impacts to health are growing, as well, with factors like high air pollution that have an immediate and potential long term impact on the health of children across the country.

Health services are often not available for the children that most need them

Some children still face barriers accessing health services, particularly Roma children or children with disabilities, mainly due to administrative barriers like lack of personal identification documents or health insurance. This, in combination with low parental awareness on how to access health services results in children not getting the health care they need. 

Although policies and legislation exist, there are certain gaps that also contribute to reduced access and quality of healthcare services, as well as their insufficient implementation.

Data can help. Lack of detailed and specific data can lead to policy making aimed at general population, therefore not reaching those children that need health services most.

Lack of quality health services in early life creates greater damage and increased costs for dealing with later in life

Failure to detect heath conditions early and intervene effectively can have detrimental effects for the life-long development of children, from the way their bodies and brains form, to their wider prospects and outcomes in life. Lack of access to quality nutrition and quality healthcare services before and during pregnancy, in combination with the lack of access to quality early learning, contributes to children having decreased performance results in school when compared to their peers from neighboring countries.

All of these challenges, in combination with the gaps in preventive, consultative and informative measures, contribute to the insufficient use of the health system and a growing lack of trust in health service providers and in health services in general, and a system that does not adequately respond to the needs of parents and children. Parents also need trusted resources to help them and guide them not throughout the entire early childhood period, so that they understand challenges associated with all developmental milestones their child will experience, and have advice on how to deal with them.

The solution

UNICEF is committed to assisting the country in the creation of a child-centred health system, for all children to have a fair chance to survive and thrive. For this to be achieved, we are working on development of the capacity of health professionals for better early detection of and intervention for children with developmental difficulties, as well as for appropriate health and nutrition seeking behaviors. Particular focus is given to the home-visiting services, such as patronage nurses who can also play a pivotal role in supporting early attachment between parents and children; recognizing risks of abandonment and detecting any form of violence, abuse and neglect.

We are working on determining the root causes of the high infant mortality rate, by introducing a regular audit on perinatal mortality. This means that every infant mortality case will be separately analyzed. The data gathered through these analyses will be used for policy making aimed at strengthening the system and significantly lowering preventable risks of infant mortality. 

We have conducted Climate Landscape Analysis to determine the environmental risks facing children in the country and their impact on child health, and we are working with relevant governmental institutions to lower risks for children by supporting the development of policies that are based on facts and are in line with the latest scientific research and achievements.

We are promoting cross-sectoral collaboration among health, social and education services to increase the access and the quality of health services for families and children from vulnerable groups, such as Roma children, children with disabilities or children that are excluded simply because they are different. This holistic approach is crucial for the long-term prospects of children, ensuring access and support required for appropriate physical and mental development.

Together with professional organizations and associations, we are working on increasing parental knowledge and skills on appropriate health practices on early childhood development and on prevention of harsh child discipline, both of which are crucial for proper brain development.  

At UNICEF, we are working to ensure quality healthcare service for all children to have a chance to survive, thrive and fulfil their full potential.

Photo of a child with a moustache made from dough during kindergarten classes focused on nutrition and food preparation
UNICEF/2014/Georgiev

Quality Nutrition for Every Child

Using the power of nutrition to unlock children’s full potential.