Healthy Start for Every Child
UNICEF advocates for strong infant and young child policies to ensure quality and continuity of life-saving maternal, newborn and childcare services, from conception through the first six years of life
UNICEF advocates for strong infant and young child policies to ensure quality and continuity of life-saving maternal, newborn and childcare services, from conception through the first six years of life.
Nurturing care, which includes care for good health, adequate nutrition, safety and security, responsive caregiving and opportunities for learning, is being integrated into the network of health care support services and across other sectors. This way every child survives, thrives and has equal chances for a quality early development and better life outcomes.
For a healthier start for every child, UNICEF promotes exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months, quality maternal nutrition and improvement in the nutritional status of young children. Efforts are targeting improvement of health system capacities for immunization, including procurement, data management and more efficient communication on vaccines.
Programme Area Goals
UNICEF’s goal is to ensure that children, from conception to 6 years, especially the most marginalized and those living in humanitarian settings, and their parents/families, benefit from high-impact health, nutrition and other interventions that support nurturing care for early childhood development.
By 2025, national policies, evidence, and institutional and professional capacities are in place to provide quality, evidence-based, equity-focused, fiscally sustainable perinatal and immunization services to all mothers, newborns and young children.
Our goal is that by 2025: 95% of children have been vaccinated with the Measles-containing vaccine (MCV1)
To respond to the urgent needs of young children and their families and tackle the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health protection system, accelerated intervention across communities is needed to improve the overall effectiveness of health care services so that no child is left behind.
Data collected before the COVID-19 pandemic crisis show that:
- In Serbia, 65,000 children are born every year, of which 4,000 are born prematurely, and every day 7 new babies require some kind of urgent support. Prematurity alone is responsible for 60 per cent of all neonatal deaths and 42 per cent of all deaths among children under 5.
- Perinatal mortality of 8.2 per 1,000 births (Source: DevInfo) in Serbia is still much higher than the average rate of 4.9 in the 25 EU countries.
Intensive neonatal care in Serbia needs to be improved and modernized, and support to families of premature babies after leaving the hospital needs to be reimagined to reduce the risk of developmental delays and learning difficulties.
- Only 24 per cent of children are exclusively breastfed in the first five months, and only 8 per cent of children in Roma settlements.
- 5 per cent of children under 5 are stunted (too short for their age), and 3 per cent are wasted (too thin for their height). About 11 per cent of children are overweight. Children under 5 living in Roma settlements are in a less favourable situation: 7 per cent are underweight and 17 per cent are stunted.
- 20 per cent of children from the general population are not fully immunized on time, while the same is true for 37 per cent of children from Roma settlements. Immunization coverage in 2020 has been further affected by COVID-19. The national coverage with the MMR first dose dropped to 78 per cent.
UNICEF is strengthening national policies, evidence, and institutional and professional capacities for providing quality, evidence-based, equity-focused, fiscally sustainable perinatal and immunization services to all mothers, newborns and young children.
Efforts are ongoing in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health to improve perinatal health care by establishing and strengthening four perinatal centres located in the university cities and through improving professional capacities, equipment and transportation.
Investments are being made in strengthening home visiting services and paediatric care at the primary health care level and integrating support to parents for early childhood development in their everyday practice. However, in order to expand these services across the country, it’s necessary to ensure quality standards and practices through legislation and professional guidelines.
UNICEF is advocating for strong infant and young child feeding policies that target maternal nutrition, early and exclusive breastfeeding, as well as improvement of the nutritional status of young children, including those undernourished or at risk of obesity, and particularly children from the most vulnerable communities.
UNICEF and the Government of Serbia have put immunization high on the agenda by supporting the improvement of health system capacities for more efficient procurement and data management on immunization, and for consistent, evidence-based, effective communication on vaccination through the health services and media platforms. There is also focus on ensuring regular immunization of migrant and refugee children on the move.