Early childhood development

The first years of life are critical for the physical, emotional and intellectual development of a child. See how UNICEF’s ECD programme helps children in Serbia reach their full potential.

Mother breastfeeding a baby with her family supporting them


Helping children reach their full potential

Early childhood development (ECD) programmes are important during the earliest years.

During early childhood, the brain develops faster than at any other time in life and that is why interventions are highly effective at this time.

The early years is a period of great opportunities and represents a foundation for development, especially 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

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.


UNICEF works to improve the quality of services in maternity wards and neonatal intensive care units.

We promote mother and baby friendly care, protection and support; support exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months; and we promote family and development care for young children, especially for preterm babies.

We focus on:
• Improving the work of paediatric and community nursing services for parents
• Promoting the importance of stimulation for optimal development
• Early detection and mitigation of developmental risks
• Developing an early intervention system for children with disabilities and their families

 A strong bond between parents and a child is the best foundation for child development.


  • 200,000 children and their parents have access to improved early childhood development services in 25 primary healthcare centres.
  • More than 1,500 children with developmental risks or difficulties received support from developmental counselling units benefiting their developmental outcomes.
  • 1,500 premature and sick babies received improved care in neonatology units in Kragujevac, Nis, Novi Sad and Belgrade.
  • 1,000 Roma families informed about positive parenting practices to improve young child hygiene, nutrition, health and development.

1,500 premature and sick babies received improved care in neonatology units in Kragujevac, Nis, Novi Sad and Belgrade.

Visiting nurse playing with a child in her home

Visiting nurses

The only professional support for families who come into their homes; providing services in a family environment.

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A boy playing with his mother in a developmental counselling units

Developmental counselling units

Developmental counseling units provide support to parents and children if a child has a developmental problem.

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Roma health mediator playing with a young Roma girl

Roma health mediators

Through field visits, they can recognize the health and social needs of the Roma population and help them solve them.

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