The support will ensure the continuity of essential health, child protection and education services for children and their families.
BRUSSELS / GENEVA, March 31, 2021 – Today the European Union (EU) and UNICEF announced the launch of a € 5 million program to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on children and the most vulnerable families in the Western Balkans and Turkey. The partnership efforts will provide some 490,000 children and parents with better access to public services that promote early childhood development, education, health and protection as part of the recovery from COVID-19.
UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, Ms Afshan Khan, said: “In the Western Balkans and Turkey, UNICEF’s collaboration with the European Union aims to protect the rights of children to education, health and protection and to ensure that national systems services are more equitable, inclusive and meet the needs of the most vulnerable children and parents. Looking at the period of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, this program is intended to help build more resilient systems in these countries. “
“We cannot afford a generation of COVID. With this program, we are helping to provide continued access to essential child care services to nearly half a million children and parents. This will include providing digital tools and quality digital content to families in remote areas, supporting the maintenance of health and nutrition services and improving the availability of early childhood development services. This is part of the EU’s broader efforts to support the Western Balkans and Turkey in their response to the pandemic and reduce its impact on the most vulnerable groups ”, said Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director of Western Balkans, Directorate General of the European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.
The EU-UNICEF multisectoral program will strengthen efforts in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo *, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey to improve access to basic services, introduce new types of support for children and families; and building the capacity of frontline workers in all sectors.
Funding for the program is part of the EU’s assistance program for the Western Balkans in response to COVID-19, which currently exceeds € 3.3 billion. Team Europe also made a contribution of 2.2 billion euros to COVAX, including 1 billion euros from European funds.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is consistent with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence
Background Since the onset of the pandemic, UNICEF has mitigated the impact of the pandemic on the lives of children and families by helping governments provide medical supplies and personal protective equipment to health workers; ensure essential hygiene supplies for schools and implement distance learning for children, including preschoolers; providing families with advice on nutrition, breastfeeding and parenting; the provision of community mental health and psychological support services; and provide social assistance to the most vulnerable children.
The EU’s total assistance program for the Western Balkans in response to COVID-19 currently exceeds € 3.3 billion. This includes immediate equipment support and medium to long term support to health systems and businesses through local banks, macro-financial assistance in the form of loans through the European Investment Bank response package. (BEI), support for the implementation of vaccines in cooperation with WHO, and support for vulnerable groups, including Roma, women (in particular, survivors of violence), children, returnees, the elderly and the disabled.
In addition to this financial support, the EU has also enabled all countries in the Western Balkans to join the EU Joint Purchase Agreement to purchase medical countermeasures and join the health security committee of the ‘EU as observers.
The EU is also one of the strongest global supporters of COVAX, which remains the best way to ensure fair and equitable access to these vaccines and to ensure international solidarity on vaccines. Team Europe has contributed over € 2.2 billion to COVAX, including € 1 billion from the EU budget.
UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we are working in 190 countries and territories to translate this commitment into concrete action, with a special focus on the most vulnerable and excluded children, for the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information on UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/eca/.
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