UNICEF Report: Reduced access to basic products for children and vulnerable families in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic
In terms of education, it is recommended to develop training programs for parents and teachers in better management of information and communication technology and online resources, but also the development of ITC courses for children
Bucharest, May 27, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the vulnerabilities of children at risk in Romania, the reduction of economic activity causing rise in the number of families whose incomes have decreased, according to a report by UNICEF.
UNICEF published today the results of the second round of the Rapid Assessment of the Situation of Children and Families, with a focus on vulnerable groups, in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic in Romania. The second round of the evaluation was based on the results of an online consultation conducted through the U-Report platform, which was answered by 2,230 adolescents and young people from across the country, and interviewing over 120 professionals including community workers, representatives of local and county authorities, civil society and staff in residential institutions from Brașov, Bacău, Ilfov and Dolj counties.
Among the findings of the assessment are the following:
• The most vulnerable children are those living in poverty, those at risk of violence, abuse or neglect, those living in overcrowded housing and whose parents are working abroad.
• The main difficulties of the communities in which respondents live, generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, are: compliance with isolation rules (54%), insecurity of parents' jobs (21%) and lack of hygiene and protection materials (16%).
• The main forms of support to be provided to children who are separated from their parents for reasons of isolation and quarantine or hospitalization are the provision of food, medicine and other categories of products (45% of responses) and the provision of support to learn from home (28% of responses).
• Difficulties in accessing services are related to access to medical services (58%) and access to educational services (31%).
"Compared to the first round of the rapid assessment, we found increases in the number of respondents who reported that it was problematic to provide basic products, in the first place being mentioned hygiene products, followed by food. The number of people reporting difficulties in accessing medicines and vaccines has also increased. Therefore, it is necessary to support a better involvement of the staff of the family medicine offices at the level of the local communities, by extending the duration of the work schedule of the offices and the visits to the community. Also, there is a need for better cooperation between medical staff, authorities and social workers, so that people's needs can be identified and addressed effectively," said Pieter Bult, UNICEF Representative in Romania.
According to the results of the questionnaires applied, the categories of children most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are children from families living in poverty, Roma children and children living in overcrowded housing.
The UNICEF report shows that there is an increased perception that the provision of education services has been affected, making it clear that in order to achieve the objectives of home education, it is important to support children by parents / tutors / legal carers. Reduced digital skills of teachers, parents and children can deepen children's inequalities in access of educational content, the authors note, recommending the development of programs to distribute free IT equipment or facilitate the purchase of equipment / technology at subsidized prices.
Another recommendation in the field of education is the development of training programs for parents and teachers in better management of information and communication technology (ICT) and online resources for distance learning and teaching. In order to increase children's digital skills, it is recommended to develop profile courses in the extracurricular activities (which use ICT).
For social services designed to prevent the separation of the child from the family, the barriers most often mentioned in this round refer to the need to isolate new beneficiaries, the limited capacity of the public sector in general to provide services in this context, and the fears of staff who work in these services of being infected with the virus.
The recommendations are to provide protective equipment for staff, increase the number of staff in social services designed to prevent the separation of the child from the family and the assessment of social needs at community level.
In terms of health, the most affected types of services remain those provided by family doctors, specialized services provided in hospitals and outpatient clinics, as well as dental services (one third of respondents reporting problems in this area).
The results of the rapid assessment highlight the need for all children in Romania to access basic services at community level. This can be achieved by extending the Minimum Package of Services (MPS) to the entire country, by placing a community nurse, a social worker/assistant and an education counsellor in every community and school. The MPS was successfully implemented by UNICEF in the 45 communities from Bacău County. The findings also show that the authorities need to develop online learning materials and capacities, including teachers and parents training to ensure access of the most vulnerable children, to quality and inclusive education, helping to close the existing educational and digital gaps. Government should improve preventive health care services including home/school/community hygiene practices, vaccination programmes, health screenings, maternal and neo-natal health and nutrition as well as health promotion, disease prevention and health education.
The rapid assessment of the situation of children and families, with a focus on the vulnerable, in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic in Romania was conducted together with the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children and Adoptions, The Research Institute for the Quality of Life, The Center for Education and Step-by-Step Professional Development, Terre des Hommes Romania Foundation, Institutionalized Youth Council, The Center for Health Policy and Services, Human-DataScience Consulting, with technical support from the World Bank and the World Health Organization.
You can download the report here.
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For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.