UNICEF in Turkey: Progress for Children 2006

An eight-year-old girl cuddles a one-year-old boy

Photograph by Rana Mullan © UNICEF Turkey 2004

Child Survival

The 21st of June 2002 proved to be a milestone in child survival in Turkey when the country was certified polio-free as part the WHO European Region -- no further cases of wild virus transmission having been recorded since November 1998. Measles immunisation coverage rates reached 97% following two successful campaigns of national immunisation days during the winters of 2003 and 2004.

Good overall progress was made in reducing infant (IMR) and under-five (U5MR) mortality rates. The strategy to reduce IMR and U5MR focused on targeting geographical areas where poverty rates are high and access to basic services is low. Outreach services for low-income families were tailored to address specific local problems with decentralised solutions designed to give the highest returns. More than 13,000 health personnel in provinces with high IMR have received training in neonatal resuscitation, for example.

According to the latest Turkey Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS) published in 2003, IMR was reduced from 43‰ live births in 1998 to 29‰ live births during the previous five years. The IMR has since dropped further to 26‰ live births in 2007, indicating a positive general improvement in child health when viewed together with the U5MR, also substantially reduced from 52‰ to 37‰ by 2003. The TDHS also showed a drop of 8.3% to 3.9% in under-five-years-old who are moderately or severely underweight and 1.4% to 0.6% in under-five-years-old who were severely underweight.

The Baby-friendly Hospitals Initiative (BFHI) was expanded to reach 70% of all hospital deliveries, helping to ensure that babies are breastfed and protected against infection during the first six months of life.

Overall, the results confirmed that consistent investment and implementation of a mix of low-cost, high-impact interventions have a positive effect on reduction of child mortality rates. The TDHS also showed a strong correlation between the education of the mother and the chances of child survival.

Girls’ Education

The UNICEF-supported girls’ education campaign Haydi Kızlar Okula! succeeded in reducing the number of girls who are out-of-school by 15% in the first year after its launch in 2003. The campaign also had the effect of increasing boys’ enrolment in primary education. A cash subsidy in the form of Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT), funded by the World Bank and disbursed by the Social Solidarity and Assistance Fund (SYDTF), improved enrolment rates by encouraging low-income families to send their children to school. The CCT included the additional incentive of a higher amount for girls.

Haydi Kızlar Okula! also achieved a great deal in terms of raising general awareness of children’s issues, particularly the negative effects of widespread female illiteracy on development, and contributed to increased debate on gender discrimination and the urgent need for gender equality at all levels of Turkish society.

The government is committed to increasing budgetary allocations for education although expenditure capacity continues to be a challenge.

Adolescent Development

UNICEF assisted in developing adolescent health needs within existing youth centres. Turkish youths are exposed to very little in the way of ‘life skills’ education since the challenges and risks posed by drugs and HIV/AIDS are not covered by the education curriculum and they are rarely discussed with parents.

A series of strategies designed to promote life skills education and improve adolescent awareness of the issues involved will be implemented in 33 provinces under the current Country Programme Action Plan CPAP.

ECD and Effective Parenting

The FACT programme, an important element of the ECD programme in Turkey, was re-configured as My Family within the EU funded Children First project. Designed to positively influence parental behaviour towards children under the age of six, the programme reached 25,000 parents directly with training and another 50,000 with effective parenting messages in 2006.

Feedback from the implementation of FACT/My Family showed that there is a considerable demand for family training related to adolescent issues. A version of the My Family package for families with children between 7 and 19 years of age is currently under development. The package will focus on communication and life-skills training for children and parents.

Children’s Rights

The Social Services and Child Protection Agency (SHÇEK) is responsible for monitoring and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child CRC in Turkey. Since Turkey ratified the CRC in 1995, SHÇEK has been successful in raising public awareness of children’s rights and the rising number of children in difficult circumstances.

UNICEF supported SHÇEK in running a year-long campaign to raise awareness of the CRC in 2000. The campaign culminated in the First Children’s Forum where delegates reviewed the campaign and discussed the way forward in promotion of children’s rights. The Children’s Forum has become the annual highlight of the children’s rights agenda, held on the anniversary of the United Nations adoption of the CRC. Child delegates from different social backgrounds and parts of the country are given the opportunity to speak about the issues that concern them most and contribute to the development agenda of the Children’s Rights Committees in the forthcoming year. At the Seventh Children’s Forum in 2006, a new child-led campaign was launched to promote children’s rights in 25 provinces.

Child Protection

Throughout the previous CPAP, UNICEF supported Turkey’s efforts to ensure that legislation is in line with both the CRC and CEDAW, including an important parliamentary enquiry by an alliance of policy and decision-makers into gross violations of children’s rights. Outcomes included a report on children living and/or working on the street, increased allocation of resources for child protection and the drafting the new child protection law, which was passed in July 2005.

UNICEF worked closely with the Ministry of Justice on the drafting of the Child Protection Law which, in tandem with reforms to the Penal Code, has led to several major improvements to the juvenile justice system, including:

  • the minimum age of criminal responsibility raised from 11 to 12;
  • provision of free legal assistance;
  • introduction of a probation system as an alternative to deprivation of liberty;
  • increased remission of sentence for children;
  • more sensitive treatment and protection of child victims;
  • increased numbers of child courts;
  • provision of protection for children by civil society.

The new family law introduced a number of amendments for the protection of children’s rights including:

  • raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 years for both girls and boys;
  • children born out of wedlock are accorded equal rights to those born within marriage.

A set of 25 Quality of Life Indicators (25QLI) has been developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the Turkish Statistical Institute (Turkstat). The 25QLI will monitor child development on a provincial basis using a Turkish version of the DevInfo system (DevInfoTürk) has been developed for data collection and assimilation. The system will be implemented in all 81 provinces by 2008.

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