Early childhood development
The first years of life are critical for the physical, emotional and intellectual development of a child
Early childhood development (ECD) programmes are important during the earliest years.
During this time the brain develops faster than at any other time in life and that is why interventions are highly effective and bring high return on investment.
ECD programmes are also a powerful equaliser of opportunities for vulnerable children.
- Perinatal mortality of 7.8 per 1000 births in Serbia is still much higher compared to the average rate of 4.9 in the 25 EU countries
- 19% of children from the general population are not fully immunized on time, while the same is true for 56% of children from Roma settlements
- Only 13% of children are exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months
- Only 37% of fathers regularly engage in learning activities with their 3 to 5-year-old children
UNICEF strengthens the ability of healthcare and other sectors to provide quality early childhood development services, particularly to vulnerable children and their families – those living in poverty, Roma children and children with disabilities.
We advocate for strong infant and young child feeding policies and the scale-up of proven interventions from pregnancy through the first two years of life – from maternal nutrition, early and exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months, to the improvement in the nutritional status of the most vulnerable children.
We support services that help parents and other caregivers provide children with affection, attention and stimulation, in addition to good nutrition, proper health care and protection.
Our work is focused on providing equitable access to quality inclusive pre-school education, which provides meaningful learning opportunities to all children within the regular education system.
- 200,000 children and their parents have access to improved early childhood development services in 25 primary healthcare centres
- 1,500 premature and sick babies received improved care in neonatology units in Kragujevac, Nis, Novi Sad and Belgrade
- More than 1,500 children with developmental risks or difficulties received support from developmental counselling units benefiting their developmental outcomes
- 1,000 Roma families informed about positive parenting practices to improve young child hygiene, nutrition, health and development
COVID-19 in Serbia
As COVID-19 burdens the health system, UNICEF is working to ensure the continuity of life-saving maternal, newborn and child health services. This means continuing to meet the urgent needs posed by COVID-19, while carrying forward critical health interventions that ensure children survive and thrive.
UNICEF is supporting the health system to ensure that maternal and child health services provide continuity of care for families and children, especially those most vulnerable. We are working to ensure unhindered access to obstetric, neonatal and preventive paediatric care, immunization, home visiting nurses, and early childhood intervention services.
Early childhood interventions teams in 7 locations are continuously providing online support to families with children with disabilities and are maintaining ongoing team activities, learning and supervision.
In partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Association of Roma Health Mediators, UNICEF supported Roma Health Mediators to intensify their contacts with families, reaching nearly 3,400 people, through proactive phone calls and by providing information about COVID-19 prevention.
The Government of Serbia has expressed interest in UNICEF’s RapidPro platform, an open-source platform of applications that can help governments deliver rapid and vital real-time information and connect communities to lifesaving services, and requested its installation on government servers, with the intention of deploying it for COVID-19 related use.
The platform is being set up with UNICEF’s support in order to facilitate its rapid uptake. Further opportunities for use in the health and education sectors are being explored.
- Distributed 71,900 surgical gloves, 5,200 surgical aprons, 25,116 surgical gowns, 99,950 surgical masks, 1,549 coveralls, and 5,376 faceshields, and 9,000 N95 masks
- Procured 50 mechanical ventilators and 60 oxygen flowmeters
- Nearly 7,000 people living in Roma settlements reached with critical hygiene items
- Roma Health Mediators supported nearly 3,400 people