Logo UNICEF Innocenti
Office of Research-Innocenti
menu icon

Evidence for Action Blog

49 - 60 of 170
Remote Learning Amid a Global Pandemic: Insights from MICS6
Blog

Remote Learning Amid a Global Pandemic: Insights from MICS6

  This post is the first in a series of articles focused on helping children continue to learn at home during the COVID-19 global pandemic, emphasizing the need for multiple remote learning platforms to meet the needs of all students.   While some countries are now moving to reopen schools, nearly 1.3 billion children are still out of school and dependent on remote learning, due to nationwide shutdowns. As national educational systems strive to meet this challenge, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) data offer some important insights into how we can ensure every child has an equal opportunity to learn remotely.  Among other key insights, the MICS data highlights that many children and youth still do not have internet access at home, and household wealth is the biggest determinant of home internet access.  This underscores the importance of providing different learning tools, at the same time as we accelerate access to the internet for every school and every child, including through UNICEF's GIGA initiative. IT-enabled learning will be a critical part of the remote learning toolbox, including offline options. UNICEF will continue to advocate for innovative solutions to provide connectivity for every school and every student. Meanwhile, governments must also continue to invest in other distance learning technologies, such as the use of television and radio broadcasts, and 'take-home' printed materials, in order to reach all school-age students. This has been summarized in UNICEF's Remote Learning COVID-19 Response Decision Tree.   Providing the world's disadvantaged and marginalized children with equitable access to learning opportunities is foundational to creating a sustainable future and must be a priority for the global education sector.  Many of the world's children do not have internet access at home   There are wide disparities in wealth and corresponding differences in access to digital technology, both between and within countries. Globally, many schools lack the resources to invest in digital learning, and many children from poorer households do not have internet access. MICS6 data show that in countries like Bangladesh, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mongolia, Pakistan (Punjab), Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe, more than half of children aged between 5-17 who are attending school do not have internet access at home. In Democratic Republic of Congo and Lao PDR, fewer than two per cent of children attending school have internet access at home. Of the 18 countries examined, only Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Montenegro had internet access in more than 70 per cent of households.   Household wealth is the biggest determinant of internet access    Household wealth and internet access are strongly linked. Students from the richest 20 per cent of households are the most likely to be able to continue learning via the internet. In some countries, internet access among the poorest 20 per cent of households is almost non-existent. Countries with low levels of internet access overall also have the highest levels of inequality of internet access between rich and poor. In Madagascar, Togo and Sierra Leone, less than 30 per cent of the population has internet access, and this access is distributed unequally across wealth levels. In all the three countries, the wealthiest 20 per cent of households comprise more than 60 percent of those with internet access. These data illustrate why, in the short term, the internet alone is not enough to ensure inclusive, equitable education, particularly in countries that were already experiencing a learning crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential that education sector responses be carefully designed to meet the learning needs of poor and disadvantaged children, so this crisis doesn't leave them even further behind.   The link between internet learning solutions and reading skills   A key insight provided by MICS6 data is that children with internet access at home also have substantially higher foundational reading skills. Well-designed digital learning platforms have the potential to provide interactive and engaging remote education, which could greatly benefit disadvantaged students, if they had access. This again shows why investment in connectivity in disadvantaged areas must be a priority. Information like this can help education stakeholders in all countries develop strategies and solutions targeted at helping children from poor households continue to learn in today's challenging environment.   Strategies for successful remote learning: internet, television, radio and 'take-home' printed materials Governments, schools and teachers around the world are looking for the best immediate solutions to provide remote learning opportunities during school closures. Afghanistan is broadcasting programmes that cover the national curriculum via television and radio. Argentina, Iran, Morocco and Viet Nam have all adopted hybrid approaches that rely on a mix of online learning for those who have internet access, and educational programming offered via television or radio for those who do not. Some countries are also delivering printed learning materials to households to reach those children who do not have access to the internet, television or radio. In the long run, the global education community needs to develop and implement comprehensive remote learning plans and modalities, including accessible digital and media content, to provide quality learning during pandemics and other crises. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have only begun to manifest and will persist long after social isolation has ended. Remote learning programmes, using various modalities, should be designed to meet the needs of all children and ensure that existing learning gaps are not further widened. Providing the world's disadvantaged and marginalized children with equitable access to learning opportunities is critical to creating a sustainable future and must be a priority for the global education sector. We can overcome the digital divide by accelerating access and finding the most innovative ways to provide online learning. And we can leverage this crisis to help bring about that change even more quickly. We must work together to seize the moment, so that education systems are stronger and more inclusive after this pandemic.
girl_from_pluto é parte de um pequeno grupo de fotógrafos adolescentes
Blog

Cinco estratégias que os governos estão utilizando para responder à violência contra mulheres e crianças durante a COVID-19

Embora o mundo tenha sido pego de surpresa pelo tamanho e pelas ramificações da crise da COVID-19, ele deveria estar preparado para responder aos riscos crescentes ao bem-estar e à segurança de mulheres e crianças. A violência contra as mulheres e a violência contra as crianças são disseminadas globalmente e intrinsicamente conectadas, tendo em comum fatores de risco e profundas e similares consequências adversas. A literatura sobre pandemias pode ser limitada, mas temos evidência suficiente para dizer, sem sombra de dúvida, que fatores relacionados, como o confinamento, o isolamento social, níveis aumentados de estresse financeiro e respostas institucionais fracas, podem elevar ou intensificar os graus de violência. “De fato, ao longo do mês passado, notícias alertaram para a ‘tempestade perfeita’, que se manifestou em mais chamadas para linhas telefônicas de ajuda, serviços on-line de apoio e boletins de ocorrência.”De fato, ao longo do mês passado, notícias alertaram para a “tempestade perfeita”, que se manifestou em mais chamadas para linhas telefônicas de ajuda, serviços on-line de apoio e boletins de ocorrência. Organizações multinacionais agiram rapidamente, emitindo declarações que alertavam sobre o aumento do risco das duas formas de violência, enquanto pesquisadores revisavam evidências de crises passadas, propondo políticas para mitigar danos potenciais a populações em situações de vulnerabilidade. Enquanto os governos incrementam as respostas à COVID-19, o que está realmente sendo feito para combater a violência?   1. Expansão das linhas telefônicas de ajuda e compartilhamento de informaçãoA informação está sendo largamente compartilhada através de manuais, recursos e ações de defesa visando amigos e familiares. O programa Parenting for Lifelong Health compilou um guia comprovadamente eficaz para a conduta segura de pais durante a quarentena. Linhas telefônicas de ajuda e plataformas de apoio on-line estão sendo expandidas ou criadas. A Itália, um dos países mais atingidos pela pandemia, está evitando “uma emergência dentro de uma emergência” por meio da linha telefônica de ajuda 1522 para violência e perseguição. Muitos outros países estão se comprometendo a manter linhas telefônicas de ajuda e canais de informação abertos durante e após o pico da COVID-19.   2. Criação de abrigos e de outras opções de acomodação segura para sobreviventesMuitos países reconhecem que alojamentos seguros são necessários em tempos de quarentena. Acomodações seguras permitem que as sobreviventes (e os menores que os acompanham) evitem temporariamente seus agressores. Como parte do pacote de ajuda para enfrentar COVID-19, o Canadá distribuiu 50 milhões de dólares canadenses entre abrigos para mulheres e centros para agressão sexual [18 de março]. Na França, um reforço de 1,1 milhão de euros em financiamento para organizações antiabuso incluíram 20 mil pernoites em hotéis para sobreviventes se protegerem de parceiros abusivos [30 de março]. Em Trento (Itália), um promotor decretou que, em situações de violência doméstica, o agressor deve deixar a casa, ao invés da vítima [28 de março]. Decretos semelhantes foram feitos na Áustria e Alemanha. Apesar da decisão ser louvável, ela faz com que garantir a segurança de sobreviventes que permaneceram em casa seja um desafio, uma vez que os agressores conhecem o local e talvez tenham acesso a ele. Julia, 16 anos, assiste a aulas on-line em casa, enquanto seus pais realizam teletrabalho durante o surto de Coronavírus em Nova Iorque3. Expansão do acesso aos serviços para sobreviventesComo a quarentena limita a mobilidade pessoal e a liberdade de movimento, alguns países estão encontrando maneiras de expandir o acesso a serviços ligados à violência. A França deu início a centros ‘pop up’ em supermercados, lugares que as mulheres provavelmente já estão visitando [30 de março]. Em diversos países (incluindo França, Itália e Espanha), uma ‘palavra-código’ específica sinaliza às farmácias para contatar as autoridades relevantes. Alguns países lançaram ou aprimoraram aplicativos ocultos  através dos quais as mulheres podem buscar os serviços e assim evitar ligar quando estão perto dos agressores (veja Italy, UK, entre outros). Serviços de proteção para mulheres e crianças devem ser considerados “essenciais”, e não bloqueados durante a COVID-19.   4. Limitando fatores de risco associados à violênciaAlguns países estão tentando resolver as formas negativas de se lidar com a COVID-19, as quais podem exacerbar o risco de violência. A Groenlândia proibiu a venda de álcool na capital Nuuk para reduzir o risco de violência a crianças que estão em casa [29 de março]. A África do Sul adotou medidas semelhantes [26 de março]. Embora se demonstre que o abuso de álcool e seu uso problemático estejam ligados a episódios mais graves de violência, a relação é complexa e as evidências de como as políticas relacionadas ao álcool afetam a violência são limitadas. Outros países, contudo, ainda precisam tomar medidas proativas para limitar os riscos associados. Restringir a venda de armas, por exemplo, limitaria o acesso a armas letais em um período de estresse exacerbado, reduzindo potencialmente o risco de feminicídio e de morte infantis. Ações políticas inteligentes podem reduzir o risco de danos e facilitar saídas positivas a fim de diminuir o estresse e promover a saúde mental.   5. Modificações no direito da família e nos sistemas de justiçaA Austrália implementou uma série de modificações no direito da família para permitir ao sistema de justiça responder com mais eficiência aos casos durante a quarentena [3 de abril]. Primeiro, eles permitem que os tribunais exijam monitoramento eletrônico nos casos de fiança e que suspendam, sob certas condições, ordens de prisão. Segundo, eles possibilitam o registro on-line de ordens de restrição. Terceiro, eles criam uma nova infração, multas mais altas e expansão do prazo de prescrição das ordens restritivas. À medida que mais países vivenciam períodos prolongados de suspensão dos serviços de justiça, inovações e emendas adicionais são necessárias para assegurar a proteção dos sobreviventes em situações desafiadoras.     Essas ações são louváveis, embora muitos países ainda não tenham  empregado recursos para ampliar esses serviços. Políticas iniciais se desenvolvem basicamente em países de alta renda, o que pode refletir a realidade de que muitos lugares de renda baixa e média possuem orçamentos limitados para enfrentar a violência contra a mulher e a violência contra a criança, mesmo quando não haja crise. Onde e como os recursos devem ser empregados? Enquanto os casos reportados e os números fornecidos pelos serviços existentes nos proporcionam um indício do que possa estar ocorrendo, eles também nos passam um quadro imperfeito. Por exemplo, em alguns lugares, chamadas para linhas telefônicas de ajuda à violência doméstica diminuíram, possivelmente por que as sobreviventes estão próximas dos agressores em quarentena e não podem buscar ajuda de maneira segura. Em outros, a procura por abrigos diminuiu, possivelmente porque as sobreviventes têm medo de contrair a COVID-19 devido à dificuldade de manter distanciamento físico dentro dos abrigos. Além disso, alguns sistemas de detecção de rotina estão parados, como os professores e os assistentes sociais. Nos Estados Unidos, vários estados já reportaram reduções no abuso e maus-tratos infantis, provavelmente devido à redução na detecção, e não na ocorrência. Ademais, o aumento do uso de telefones e computadores para se comunicar no lugar das interações pessoais, também apresenta outros meios para a perpetração de novas formas de violência on-line, incluindo assédio, exploração e abuso sexuais. Os esforços de mitigação devem tratar das diversas formas de violência conectadas à COVID-19. As medidas tomadas devem ser continuamente monitoradas para garantir que alcancem os efeitos pretendidos, e não resultar em danos indesejados. “Para muitas mulheres e meninas, a ameaça é maior onde elas deveriam estar mais seguras. Em suas próprias casas.”  Enquanto o Secretário-Geral das Nações Unidas urgentemente clama pela paz nas casas ao redor do mundo, nós esperamos que essa lista não exaustiva de respostas governamentais forneça inspiração para outras ações. Quando se trata de prevenir e reduzir a violência e apoiar sobreviventes, todos temos um papel a desempenhar, particularmente nesses tempos sem precedentes.   Alessandra Guedes é Gerente de Pesquisas de Gênero e Desenvolvimento na UNICEF Innocenti. Amber Peterman é Especialista em Políticas Sociais junto à Unicef Innocenti e à Universidade da Carolina do Norte em Chapel Hill. Dina Deligiorgis é Especialista em Políticas para acabar com a violência contra as mulheres na ONU Mulheres. Agradecemos a Patricia Salomão do Centro de Referência de Apoio à Mulher Vítima de Violência (CRAM) da Secretaria da Mulher em Barueri (SP – Brasil) e Marcia Salomão por traduzirem este blog da sua versão original em inglês.
Ethical collection of data from children during the COVID-19 pandemic
Blog

Ethical collection of data from children during the COVID-19 pandemic

Our need to understand, quantify, forecast, track and unpack the COVID-19 pandemic fuels an insatiable need for data. While children are not the primary victims, they are significantly impacted in most areas of their lives, and will continue to be well after the pandemic is contained. Understanding the impact on children is critical. Understanding their circumstances will be necessary for current and future predictions of impacts of the crisis on them. Collecting information that helps us determine how best to respond to similar future outbreaks is essential. There is so much we don’t know, and our children’s futures depend on us knowing. We need to take care. We need to ensure that our desire to help, to understand, to learn and to do all of this quickly doesn’t overshadow the basic principle of 'do no harm.'We need children’s data, and we need it yesterday. We need data about them, and we will need to get data directly from them. This is necessary to secure the rights of children, ensure that they have a voice, are safe and protected and that their basic needs are met. Where physical distancing is in place, we will look to use both old and new tech to gather the data online or by using phones. We will explore pre-existing big data sets and try and create new ones with new tech. When the crisis is over, we may revert whole or in part to face to face interviews. Whether using primary or secondary data we will be collecting information on children because we need to. Despite restrictions on movement due to coronavirus containment measures health workers in Al-Hasakeh city, Syria, continue to provide guidance to a refugee mother at the shelters on infant and young child feeding practices.However, and this is a big however, we need to take care. We need to ensure that our desire to help, to understand, to learn and to do all of this quickly doesn’t overshadow the basic principle of “do no harm.” Whether we are considering using apps for contact tracing, or thinking of asking children via social media platforms about their day to day lives in lock-down, we need to do so with a critical lens on our belief that we will do good through the data collection. Read new Discussion Paper: Ethical Considerations for Evidence Generation Involving Children on the COVID-19 PandemicThe risk is obvious, if we don’t consider issues like equity, justice, respect, privacy, purpose limitations and data value add, then we are at risk of negatively impacting those that we are looking to support. Without appropriate ethical reflection throughout and beyond the pandemic, a number of negative outcomes for children will likely ensue including: Significant exposure to risk of traumatization due to inappropriate questions and timing and an inability to determine where they may be within trauma and healing cycles;Difficulties responding to and ensuring an appropriate duty of care during the emergency and immediately after, if observation or disclosure of abuse occurs and/or if significant psychological/physical needs are evidenced given limited access to services;Perceived and actual privacy and confidentiality violations and data collection in excess of requirements and without appropriate and truly informed consent impacting the child and eroding the trust of children and their communities;Data obtained for one purpose, such as contract tracing, being misused for political/social surveillance;Potential reprisals against child participation or even consequent to attempts at recruitment in evidence generation, heightened during the mitigation stage of the outbreak in contexts where children are in lock-down;Poorly designed evidence generation that produces unreliable data including: a) poorly designed instruments that make incorrect assumptions relating to impacts, needs, experiences, and homogeneity of children and their experiences and, b) using technologies that may not be accessible to disadvantaged children resulting in poorly informed policies and future risk mitigation in outbreaks that fail to equitably meet children’s needs and long-term development;Missed opportunities to obtain children’s perspectives and insights – not just those considered ‘children’s issues’ – and/or prioritizing subject matter that fails to take into account children’s priorities in relation to support during COVID-19 and other future outbreaks.A young girl in Cairo, Egypt, does schoolwork on a tablet while staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.In all the above examples our desire to help and to understand becomes subverted by the benign neglect of the ethical imperative. So whenever primary or secondary data collection from or about children is undertaken, explicit reflection is required on the timing, approach, necessity and transparency of the process. Consideration also should be given to privacy, representation, consent and importantly the circumstances of children. As always it will be the most disadvantaged and marginalized children that will suffer the greatest. Whether through exclusion, surveillance or lack of access to resources and cramped conditions these cohorts are at a heightened risk of vulnerability to multiple deprivations, psychological distress and exploitation both before and after the pandemic is contained. In these and all instances our response needs to be continuous vigilance, reflection and development of mitigation strategies. In some instances, the data collection should simply not go ahead in either the short term or indeed ever. We have to be prepared to put aside our ambitions for principles, to swap idealism for the realities of context, and to be ever vigilant.   Gabrielle Berman is Senior Advisor, Ethics in Evidence Generation at UNICEF Innocenti. This blog builds on a new Innocenti Discussion Paper highlighting ethical considerations involving children in research on the COVID-19 pandemic. For more visit UNICEF Innocenti's COVID-19 and children rapid research response  microsite.
Caring in the time of COVID-19: Gender, unpaid care work and social protection
Blog

Caring in the time of COVID-19: Gender, unpaid care work and social protection

Care work, which is predominantly provided by women and girls, is a central yet typically undervalued contributor to economies. It includes supporting daily activities of individuals (such as cooking, cleaning, and providing daily essentials), as well as the health and well-being of others, including children and the elderly. Emerging data indicates that among confirmed cases of COVID-19 men are consistently dying in higher numbers than women. But when it comes to the economic and social fallout of the pandemic, women and girls face much greater risks. The UN recently published a policy brief recognising these risks, including impacts to sexual and reproductive health, and increases in gender-based violence. Women will be the hardest hit by this pandemic, but they will also be the backbone of recovery in communities. Every policy response that recognises this will be the more impactful for it.COVID-19 impact on women and girls’ unpaid care workThe rapid spread of COVID-19 has highlighted the critical role of care work, particularly in times of crisis. Coronavirus containment measures have resulted in the closure of many services—including schools, basic health care, and day care centres—shifting responsibility for their provision on to households. While this could offer an opportunity for gender roles to shift within the home, emerging evidence suggests that care roles continue to be assumed disproportionately by women during this pandemic. Even before the pandemic, globally women and girls carried out on average three times times the amount of unpaid care and domestic work of men and boys. These responsibilities will only increase with new health and hygiene requirements, such as hand-washing and taking care of sick family members. Curfews and self-quarantine measures are likely to make these tasks even more challenging. Nurses wearing masks and gloves to protect against the Coronavirus, in the health center of Gonzagueville, a suburb of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.191 countries have implemented nationwide school closures in an attempt to prevent further contagion, impacting over 91 per cent of world’s student population. On average, women will spend more time providing care and educational support to children. Temporary school closures also risk turning into school drop-out. Worryingly, the economic instability caused by COVID-19 could increase early and forced marriage, particularly for adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries. Care burdens will manifest differently based on women and girls’ ages and stages in life. People over the age of 60 have the highest risk of infection. They are also often sources of childcare support within families, enabling younger women to work and study. The inter-generational impacts of the virus on long-term care arrangements, when children need to be separated from older family members, will need to be better understood. The double caregiving burden of women in paid care workMore than 70 per cent of workers in the health and social sector are women. Women frontline care workers may face a double caregiving burden; additional demands placed on health services may require longer working hours, combined with increased care work at home. Paid care workers are also at higher risk of infection, particularly those in jobs that lack protective gear and protocols to keep them safe. Women disproportionately work in care-related jobs with poor protection and few benefits, including paid sick leave, making them particularly vulnerable. They are also more likely to be unable to take time off work or stay at home to care for themselves or others. Many who provide care in others’ homes do not have employment contracts so may not get paid if they are unable to work or they may be made work without the necessary protection or information. Social protection is key to mitigating gendered risks The anticipated rise in unpaid care work provided by women and girls has numerous consequences for gender equality, including increased risk of infection and psychosocial effects from providing care to an infected relative. What’s more, the heightened exposure to and risk of gender-based violence, combined with reduced access to health services, all point to potentially long-lasting impacts for women and girls’ health.   A mother reads a bedtime story to her 5 year old son in Harare, Zimbabwe where the government has ordered a period of quarantine to fight against the coronavirus pandemic.Over 130 countries (as of 17 April 2020) have used social protection measures to mitigate some of the socio-economic costs of both the pandemic and the containment measures, particularly on vulnerable groups. These measures include social assistance (e.g. family or child grants) and social insurance (e.g. unemployment insurance). Social protection measures to support low-income or vulnerable workers are also being introduced, including paid sick leave and waivers on rent and utilities payments. As their roles as unpaid carers becomes further entrenched, as schools stay closed, and as a global economic crisis looms, there is a real risk that efforts to invest in and promote gender parity and overall gender equality will be undermined or even jeopardised. Immediate attention across every sector is needed to safeguard rights and investments in women and girls. Given the longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on gendered and multi-dimensional poverty, social protection responses that do not address the fundamental drivers of gender inequality, including unpaid care and responsibilities, will entrench already existing gender inequalities. As COVID—19 amplifies these inequalities, now is a critical window of opportunity to build more effective social protection to endure through future pandemics. How social protection can address gender inequalitiesGender-responsive age-sensitive social protection could recognise, reduce, and redistribute women’s care work. For example, providing childcare support to women with more care responsibilities and to frontline workers will balance paid work with unpaid care work. Italy’s “Cura Italia” stimulus package provides a childcare voucher of up to €600 for private-sector workers with children below the age of 12 who decide not to take parental leave.Cash transfers should include a care component by expanding the scope of existing cash transfers or creating new programmes targeted at paid and unpaid care workers. The El Salvador government has pledged $300 for up to 1.5 million households who work in the informal economy without financial safety.Increased and gender-responsive services to reduce care burdens. Providing hygiene kits and information about prevention measures or ensuring adequate access to water and sanitation are two ways of reducing care burdens. In Colombia, water services are provided free of charge for low-income families, while in Burkina Faso several utilities are being subsidised.Changing social norms around care provision is a long-term goal that needs consistent attention. Increasing men’s contribution to unpaid care and domestic work, for example through paid paternity leave and equal parental leave, can contribute to this. Austria’s COVID-19 response allows employees with childcare responsibilities to take up to 3 weeks of care leave on full pay.  Short-term measures alone will be insufficient to address the long-term impacts of the pandemic. Collectively financed and comprehensive social protection is needed. The crucial issue of care work must continue to be made visible to policy makers to ensure that effective and sustainable gender-responsive social protection approaches to the pandemic are adopted. This is especially critical for the most vulnerable groups, such as adolescent girls or migrant women. COVID-19 is an opportunity to bring about long-term changes to gender equality if social protection measures are introduced in a gender-responsive and age-sensitive way. The opportunity this pandemic has presented to improve the lives of those most vulnerable should not be squandered.   Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed is Gender & Development Manager at UNICEF Innocenti. Ramya Subrahmanian is Chief of Child Rights & Child Protection at UNICEF Innocenti. Discover our work on gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection (GRASSP), funded by with UK aid by the UK government.
How involved are parents in their children’s learning? MICS6 data reveal critical insights
Blog

How involved are parents in their children’s learning? MICS6 data reveal critical insights

It is widely understood that parents play a pivotal role in a child’s education – research suggests that parental involvement in a child’s education boosts well-being and confidence and is important for academic progression. With school closures due to the global COVID-19 pandemic affecting an estimated 1.58 billion children in more than 180 countries, the importance of parental involvement in education has suddenly and dramatically increased. Internationally comparable data on parental involvement and its impact on children’s education is extremely limited. To address this critical gap, round 6 of the UNICEF supported Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS6) includes a new module on parental involvement. It assesses two types of parental involvement – home-based and school-based – using a questionnaire devoted to collecting information for children aged 5-17 years at the household level. A selection of preliminary findings from this module are discussed below.How does parental involvement in school differ between and within countries? One finding from countries with available MICS6 data is that there are large variations in levels of school-based parental involvement, which depends largely on whether schools have governing boards in which the parents can participate. In countries like Zimbabwe and the Kyrgyz Republic, almost all children attend schools with governing boards, whereas in Punjab (Pakistan) and Tunisia, fewer than 20 per cent of children attend schools with governing boards. Source: MICS6   However, the presence of a governing board does not translate into participation by all parents. In countries with similar percentages of children attending schools with governing boards, participation of parents in governing board meetings varies considerably. For example, although about 50-60 per cent of children in Mongolia, Georgia and Iraq attend schools with governing boards, parental involvement in board meetings is vastly different between these countries. Only 26 per cent of Mongolian children have parents who attended governing boards meetings compared to 33 per cent of Georgian children and 44 per cent of Iraqi children whose parents attend the meetings. Whether a child attends a school with a governing board is also closely linked to household wealth. In only four of the 13 countries analyzed – Zimbabwe, the Kyrgyz Republic, Lesotho and The Gambia – do children from the poorest quintile attend schools with governing boards on par with the national average. In the remaining countries, the percentage of poorest children who attend schools with governing boards is below the national average. Moreover, poorest parents participate in school governing boards at rates lower than the national average in all countries except in Zimbabwe, the Kyrgyz Republic and The Gambia. In summary, while the existence of school governing boards is important to school-based parental involvement, household wealth is also an important factor.   What are the differences in home-based parental involvement across countries? Similar to school-based parental involvement, the share of parents engaging in home-based parental involvement varies greatly between and within countries. For example, the share of children who receive help with homework is more than twice in Zimbabwe (89 per cent) than in Madagascar (42 per cent).MICS6 data show that household wealth is a major determinant of home-based parental involvement. Across all countries except Georgia, fewer children from lowest quintile received help with their homework than their peers from wealthier quintiles. In some countries, such as in Madagascar, Punjab (Pakistan) or Sierra Leone, the difference is quite large. Source: MICS6   Another determinant of home-based parental participation in education is the availability of books for children and household wealth. Here too we see wide disparities among countries – for example, most children in Georgia live in households which have child-oriented books, but more than 90 per cent of the poorest children in Punjab (Pakistan), Iraq, Madagascar, Lesotho and Zimbabwe live in households with not even one child-oriented book.   Source: MICS6What can we do to ensure that all children, including the poorest, have educational support from parents at school and at home? The MICS6 Parental Involvement module provides important new insights into critical factors associated with children’s education. As revealed by these preliminary findings, parents from the poorest households may not be able to fully participate in, and help advance, their child’s education. New insights like this and others provided by MICS6 equip policymakers and researchers with powerful tools to better understand the nature and impacts of factors like parental involvement in a child’s education, and will be more thoroughly explored in the upcoming series of articles on the COVID-19 pandemic. By informing the creation of data-driven policies that direct support to the poorest families, MICS6 helps to give every child an equal opportunity to participate in education, even during times of crisis.    
From the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, insights on helping families and children cope
Blog

From the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, insights on helping families and children cope

Just as the coronavirus outbreak reached its peak in the Italian province of Lombardy a group of health care professionals, many with Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo, published a short commentary which caught the attention of staff at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti in Florence. Their simple message: COVID-19 was decimating their whole town and therefore required a completely new way of fighting the disease and its multiple side-effects ripping through their community. Bergamo is a picturesque city in the Lombardy Region of Northern Italy. Its immediate surroundings form part of one of the richest and most industrialized areas in Europe. Not far from the buzzing urban centre of Milan, Bergamo is also adjacent to a series of alpine valleys near the Swiss border where, by contrast, rural communities and their traditions are well preserved. A dark nightmareIn mid-February, this peaceful community, with a pragmatic approach to life and deep-rooted traditions of care for others, plummeted into a dark nightmare whose end is still unknown. Even with one of the best standards of medical care in Europe, COVID-19 has completely overwhelmed Bergamo’s healthcare systems. The latest report of the National Institute of Statistics on mortality in Italy, based on data obtained from municipal registries, indicates that in March 2020, 5,400 persons died in Bergamo. Of this number, 4,500 deaths were apparently due to coronavirus. As reported by the local newspaper the total number of deaths is six times the number of deaths registered in the same period in 2019. The number of infected people is probably far higher than what is reported by official statistics, which are based on COVID-19 tests performed only in hospitals on symptomatic patients. According to the Italian Civil Protection agency, in March the province of Bergamo had 2,080 deaths and 8,803 infections confirmed by test swabs. Incredibly, by these statistics, the COVID-19 fatality rate in Bergamo is many times higher than the global fatality rate estimated by Imperial College London, published in The Lancet. In Bergamo almost every household contains or knows of someone who has either died or is fighting for their life due to the virus. The town has become well-known throughout Italy for the sad daily ritual of Italian military trucks transporting coffins to other regions. Local cemeteries and mortuaries in Bergamo were completely overwhelmed several weeks ago.Doctors and nurses working non-stop at the ICU of the Hospital of Vizzolo Predabissi, in Lombardy.Focus on households and communitiesIn this unimaginable situation, each day doctors and nurses repeat a titanic and unparalleled effort against the virus. In the midst of this tragedy a group of physicians, community workers and local agencies set up a ‘multidisciplinary task force’ to reflect on Bergamo’s circumstances as the epicenter of the pandemic. When the authors of this piece began to contact them to find out what lessons they might share for countries yet to follow in their path, a series of important, yet less considered ideas began to emerge. First, they consider this pandemic a humanitarian crisis which requires new actions, new models, new thinking for them as well as for the international community and humanitarian agencies. Following the traditional patient-centered approach to care is no longer enough. A community-centered care approach is needed to respond to the challenges that the emergency is posing. Developing a sustainable model can be crucially important project for the entire world, Bergamo being, at this moment, arguably among the hardest hit cities in the world. One of the first lessons they shared was the absolute necessity to reverse the ingrained idea that the hospital is where you should rush for urgent care. All too often, families repeated the mistake of speeding family members struggling to breath to the hospital, only to be engulfed in the most contagious environment possible. In Bergamo the health care community quickly realized that aggressive community-based measures were needed to identify and keep moderate cases best suited to recovery at home, as far away from the hospital as possible. From the start it became clear that households played a central role in the community response. Children - the hidden victimsIn such a dramatic situation, children and their families – especially the most vulnerable and fragile –quickly become the ‘hidden-victims’ of this crisis. Not considered at high risk of succumbing to the virus, nevertheless urgent measures to support a range of spill-over effects had to be put in place. Municipal governments and civil society groups together with psychological and health services have started to implement various channels of remote response to emerging needs. They are focusing first on relatives of hospitalized patients and health workers (“Curare chi cura”). They are also working to ensure continuity of care for vulnerable persons and children with disabilities already being assisted by health services.A family in Bergamo, Italy made a rainbow out of clothes hung outside her house, involving their children and the next door neighbours. The message on the flag says: "Courage Italy".A team of pediatric psychiatrists, also based at Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital, has conceptualized (for discussion) an ecological model to promote and support protective factors for children based on three main strands: family, community and schools. Central to this approach is the concept that the adults in children’s lives are the primary channel for most forms of care and support. In a Bergamo-type scenario almost everyone who is sick with something other than COVID-19 is unable to receive medical treatment. The implications of this are horrifying for everyone, but for children, especially vulnerable children, this can equate to lifelong consequences. This situation offers perhaps the most powerful argument of all for staying home at all costs and reducing the chance of a broken bone or a bicycle accident leading to a hospital trip and almost certain exposure of the virus. Care for children by supporting caregiversIt is crucial to look at stressors on caregivers, teachers and child social service providers and to strengthen networks across families, local institutions (municipalities), schools, social workers and physicians. These networks must be supported to maximize efforts to reach not only those children who are already receiving medical and social support, but also those children at risk of becoming invisible without a system in place to help and support them before their conditions become pathological. Many children in Bergamo live in families that have experienced one or more deaths. While grieving over lost family members, they live in fear of more infections along with deep anxiety over the loss of household income. In this setting children’s emotional needs often fade from view. They do not have adequate opportunities to be heard, and often refrain from asking questions to avoid increasing the burden on their parents. They cannot share their own fears with friends at school or mitigate them by playing with classmates. Largely, they remain unheard, while adults try to cope with multiple difficulties at the same time. Adolescents and young people may feel a sense of pride in their ability to help their families and community to adjust to the online reality they now all live in. Bergamo pediatric psychiatrists observe that for some adolescents, familiarity with the internet appears to be more like an asset that is keeping them connected with friends, social networks and information. For those who do show signs of distress, services providers are creating networks to share resources and knowledge to better target and differentiate their interventions. Within these networks, pediatricians will play a critical role in early warning of signs of distress. Mental health - before, during and afterwardsBergamo mental health specialists highlight the importance of strengthening communication between hospital staff and family. Families are bombarded with life and death situations affecting their loved ones and there is an urgent need for hospital staff trained to inform families of critical situations in the most sensitive manner combined with the offer of psychological support. Often this can be a crucial first step in restoring a sense of community, as well as a means of addressing emotions and concerns for the entire family. Building and strengthening a sense of community is also an important component in overcoming the barrier of stigma associated with revealing one’s weakness or the need for help. This can be a challenging social norm in places like Bergamo, often preventing people from asking for the support they need and worsening household circumstances where vulnerable children live. The Bergamo team proposes that a pool of institutions and representatives serving various sectors of the community develop a "Charter to live with COVID-19" – at both the community and family levels – to engage the whole community, down to the household level, and to promote use of the resources put in place by the various stakeholders, in most cases on the internet. The ‘Community Charter’ would promote solidarity and support to alleviate the burden of a health crisis which has also become a social and economic crisis. It would prioritize and make more accessible concrete services to cope with the emergency, including economic and psycho-social support.A 7 year old boy does homework that his teachers sent to his parents via WhatsApp, Rome , Italy.The ‘Family Charter,’ on the other hand, should locate and identify fragile families and parents, helping them with concrete suggestions on how to support their children, maintain routines, and organize moments of lightness together. It would help parents and caregivers to acquire the necessary skills to recognize signals of distress in children which would require referral. Crucial in this work will be building multiple layers of support for parents who have been serving as nurturers, caregivers, teachers, counselors and supporters of children and young people. Schools intersect all children's livesLastly, school is the one agency that intersects the lives of almost all children. Health professionals say they have not observed significant disparities in learning during the period of school closure, due, in their view, to Bergamo’s very high standard of living. But the true picture of educational disparity could be unclear, with all attention still on saving human lives. However, educational authorities need to start thinking about how to support children when they come back to class. And teachers will need enormous support as they come in contact with the social and emotional trauma on children who have spent months in quarantine as family and friends succumbed around them. For many children, especially for the most vulnerable and fragile, schools represent the only familiar and constant space for social and emotional support. Planning a shared community moment at the beginning of the next school year can provide an opportunity to talk about what occurred and to empathetically listen to everyone's stories. The lead author of the paper referenced in the beginning of this narrative emphasizes that concerted international humanitarian response is needed in places like Bergamo. He also warns that the coronavirus outbreak should not be confused with an earthquake. The symptom profile and population dynamics of the contagion requires a prolonged multi-sectoral, multi-phase response that could take quite different forms along the way.A home visit physician visiting a COVID-19 patient with mild symptoms at his home in Lombardy.Summary of lessons on caring for children and families – Outlined by Bergamo health workersThe symptom profile and trajectory of COVID-19 makes it almost impossible for existing data systems to explain the true scope of the problem;The virus cannot be fought with a patient focused approach to care; it can only be attacked effectively with a community care approach;Children and families are not the most vulnerable to COVID-19 contagion, but they are vulnerable to being hidden or sidelined in the worst hit communities;It is essential to reverse the ingrained response that the hospital is where people should rush for urgent care as they become the most dangerous hotbeds of infection, and where children can easily become asymptomatic cases;Children (and adults) who are sick with anything other than COVID-19 will almost certainly be neglected; perhaps the most compelling reason to remain at home and minimize the chance of an accident or injury that would ordinarily lead to a hospital visit;Focus on stressors affecting parents, caregivers, teachers and child social service providers and strengthen networks that support them across families, local institutions (municipalities), schools, social workers and physicians;Keep children’s emotional needs uppermost and ensure they have space to express their opinions and that they are encouraged to do so. High standards of living and low inequality are no assurance that educational equity is being maintained during school closure;Adolescents may feel a sense of pride in their ability to help family members adjust to the new reality of a fully online community; often their deep experience with online interaction can be a powerful source for connection, social networks and vital information for themselves and their families;Prioritize training of hospital staff in sensitive communication with loved ones following the death of a relative as this has been observed to mitigate the impact of intense grief on children and families;Even in such a devastating period social stigma against expressing weakness or asking for assistance can be a severe obstacle to working through households to address the needs of children;Establishing a ‘Charter to Live with COVID-19’ can be a powerful tool for communities and families to assert their determination to survive and focus on the needs of the most vulnerable members of their homes and neighborhoods;Provide support to adults who will be called on to shoulder far more that their usual responsibilities as they must be the hands that health, social work, education and protection services for children are delivered during quarantine;Teachers and schools provide a crucial continuum of support that often goes far beyond learning both during quarantine and in the very sensitive period immediately afterwards. They need more support that is commonly considered at this stage.Patrizia Faustini is Sr Communication Associate and Dale Rutstein is Chief of Communication at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. The writers would like to acknowledge the following physical and mental health professionals of Bergamo who generously contributed their insights and their precious time during the worst health crisis to hit their community in centuries. Susanna Ambrosino, Psychologist; Lorella Giuliana Caffi,  Child Neuropsychiatrist; Andrea Ciocca, Project Coordinator; Sara Forlani, Child Neuropsychiatrist; Donatella Fusari, Physiotherapist; Ludovica Ghilardi, Research Fellow, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Claudia Guuva, Child Neuropsychiatrist; Francesca Lesmo, Psychologist; Michela Marzaroli, Child Neuropsychiatrist; Mirco Nacoti, MD, Anesthesia and Intensive Care; Anna Polo Resmi, Child Neuropsychiatrist; Anna Maria Scioti, Psychologist; Patrizia Maria Carla Stoppa, Child Neuropsychiatrist. 
Five ways governments are responding to violence against women and children during COVID-19
Blog

Five ways governments are responding to violence against women and children during COVID-19

While the world may have been caught off guard by the size and ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis, it should be prepared to respond to the increased risks to the wellbeing and safety of children and women. Violence against children and violence against women are widespread globally and intrinsically linked, sharing common risk factors and similar adverse and severe consequences. The literature within pandemics may be limited, but we have enough evidence to say unequivocally that related factors—such as confinement, social isolation, increased levels of financial stress, and weak institutional responses—can increase or intensify levels of violence. Indeed, over the past month, reports have warned of the “perfect storm”, manifesting in increased calls to helplines, online support services, and police reports.Indeed, over the past month, reports have warned of the “perfect storm”, manifesting in increased calls to helplines, online support services, and police reports. Multinational organisations quickly took action, issuing statements warning of increased risk of both forms of violence, while researchers reviewed evidence from past crises, proposing policy actions to mitigate against potential harm to populations in situations of vulnerability. As governments ramp up response to COVID-19, what is actually being done to combat violence? 1. Expansion of helplines and information sharingInformation is being shared widely through guides, resources, and advocacy targeting friends and family members. Parenting for Lifelong Health has compiled evidence-supported guidance for safe parenting during quarantine. Helplines and online support platforms are being expanded or established. Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, is preventing “an emergency within an emergency” by advertising the 1522 helpline for violence and stalking. Numerous other countries are committing to keeping helplines and information channels open during and after the peak of COVID-19. 2. Funding shelters and other safe accommodation options for survivorsNumerous countries have acknowledged that additional safe housing is needed during times of quarantine. Safe accommodation allows survivors (and accompanying minors) to temporarily escape abusers. As part of its COVID-19 relief package, Canada has allocated $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres [March 18]. In France, a €1.1 million funding increase for anti-abuse organisations included 20,000 hotel nights for survivors to escape abusive partners [March 30]. In Trento (Italy), a prosecutor ruled that in situations of domestic violence the abuser must leave the family home rather than the victim [March 28]. Similar rulings have been given in Austria and Germany. Although a laudable decision, it makes guaranteeing the safety of survivors, who remain at home a challenge given that perpetrators know where to reach them and may have access to the home. Sixteen-year-old Julia attends online school from home while her parents telework during the Coronavirus outbreak in New York.3. Expansion of access to services for survivorsAs quarantine limits personal mobility and freedom of movement, some countries are finding ways to expand access to violence-related services. France has initiated ‘pop up’ centres in grocery stores, where women are likely to be already visiting [March 30]. In a number of countries (including France, Italy, and Spain), a specific 'code word' signals to pharmacies to contact the relevant authorities. Some countries have released or improved concealed apps through which women can seek services to avoid calling in close quarters with abusers (see Italy, UK, among others). Protection services for women and children must be considered “essential” and not locked down due to COVID-19.  4. Limiting risk factors associated with violenceSome countries are tackling the negative ways of coping with COVID-19 that may exacerbate the risk of violence. Greenland has banned alcohol sales in its capital Nuuk to reduce the risk of violence against children in the home [March 29]. South Africa has taken similar measures [26 March]. While alcohol abuse and problematic drinking is shown to be linked to more severe violent episodes, the relationship is complex and there is limited evidence of how alcohol-related policies affect violence. Other countries, however, have yet to take proactive steps to limit associated risks. Curtailing gun sales, for example, would limit access to fatal weapons at a time of heightened stress, potentially reducing the risk of female homicide and child deaths. Smart policy action can reduce risk of harm and facilitate positive outlets to reduce stress and promote mental health. 5. Modifications to family law and justice systemsAustralia has implemented a number of modifications to family law to allow the justice system to better respond to cases during quarantine [April 3]. First, they allow courts to impose electronic monitoring requirements for bail and conditionally suspend imprisonment orders. Second, they enable online filing of restraining orders. Third, they create a new offence, increased fine, and extended limitation period for restraining orders. As more countries experience extended periods of curtained justice services, further innovation and amendments are needed to ensure the protection of survivors in challenging situations. These actions are commendable, however many countries have still not committed resources to increase services. Initial policy responses are largely in high-income countries, which may reflect the reality that many resource-poor settings have limited budgets for addressing violence against children and violence against women even when there is no crisis. Where and how should resources be targeted? While reported cases and numbers from existing services give us a signal of what might be happening, they also give an imperfect picture. For example, in some settings, calls to domestic violence hotlines have decreased, possibly because survivors are in ear shot of perpetrators in quarantine and are unable to safely seek help. In others, demand for shelters has decreased, potentially because survivors are afraid of contracting COVID-19 within close quarters at shelters. In addition, some routine detection systems are closed, such as teachers or social workers. Already in the US, several states have reported reductions in child abuse and maltreatment, believed to be due to a reduction in detection, rather than occurrence. Further, increased time spent on phones and using computers to communicate in place of in-person interactions also poses additional avenues for perpetration of new forms of violence online, including sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse. Mitigation efforts must address the diverse forms of violence connected with COVID-19. Actions taken must be continuously monitored to ensure they are having intended effects, and do not result in unintended harm. “For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest. In their own homes.” As the UN Secretary-General urgently calls for peace in homes around the world, we hope that this non-exhaustive list of government responses will provide some inspiration for further action. When it comes to preventing and reducing violence and supporting survivors, everyone has a part to play, particularly in these unprecedented times.   Alessandra Guedes is the Gender & Development Research Manager at UNICEF Innocenti. Amber Peterman is a Social Policy Specialist with UNICEF Innocenti and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dina Deligiorgis is Policy Specialist on ending violence against women at UN Women.
Fast access to cash provides urgent relief to those hardest hit by COVID—19
Blog

Fast access to cash provides urgent relief to those hardest hit by COVID—19

COVID—19 is wreaking health and economic turmoil worldwide. These impacts are all the more pronounced in low-income or crisis-affected countries, where the economic crisis caused by the pandemic may hit harder than the virus itself. This is the case for Jordan which, in addition to 15.7% of its population living below the poverty line, hosts 650,000 registered refugees who fled the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Since 2017, UNICEF Jordan has been supporting vulnerable households with  monthly direct cash payments (known as ‘Hajati’). This cash is ‘no strings attached’ but recipients are encouraged to use it to support children’s schooling. Forthcoming UNICEF Innocenti research reveals how Hajati positively impacts children’s lives. But how can social protection be expanded rapidly to support families made even more vulnerable by a global pandemic? The case of Hajati provides some valuable reflections. To counter the spread of the virus, the government of Jordan declared a state of emergency, implementing a stringent lockdown and deploying the army to enforce a strict curfew. While these containment measures slow the spread of COVID—19, many already vulnerable people have suddenly found themselves without an income. UNICEF Jordan quickly started working with the government and other partners to offset the impact of the lockdown for children. New vulnerable households were added to the Hajati cash transfer programme. This expansion provides urgent support to households that cannot count on savings to cope with the shock. Saleh, the eldest sibling of eight children, is 13 years old and in 8th grade at a UNICEF-supported double-shifted school in Wadi al-Sier. He is considering going back to work as, even with the Hajati support, the family continues to struggle with high living costs and rent.Following the closure of all schools on 15th March, UNICEF Jordan is helping to provide distance learning to children, fulfilling Hajati’s primary aim of supporting children’s education. Using TV and online platforms, as well as providing information on age-appropriate lessons through Hajati communication networks, UNICEF Jordan continues to support the most vulnerable children during this particularly challenging period.   Four factors to get cash to those who need it, fast Time was of the essence as the lockdown immediately impacted people’s livelihoods and included an imminent bank closure. In just two weeks, UNICEF Jordan scaled up Hajati to include 18,000 additional vulnerable children. Four factors made this possible: 1. Comprehensive data on potential recipientsUNICEF Jordan maintains a database with information on 38,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable households. This was used to rapidly identify households not receiving Hajati but who were in urgent need of financial support. 2. Efficient and safe payment systemsUNICEF Jordan leveraged existing systems to transfer funds. Under a partnership with 26 humanitarian organizations (Common Cash Facility), households registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) can quickly and safely access Hajati cash using an iris scan. Furthermore, by coordinating with other cash providers, payment dates are staggered to avoid overcrowding and to reduce the potential transmission of the virus at ATMs. 3. Direct communication with recipients UNICEF Jordan has three channels to communicate with beneficiaries: SMS for one-way communication; RapidPro for two-way SMS communication at no cost to beneficiaries; and a helpline for direct communication. These allow UNICEF to quickly update people about Hajati and inform them of basic safety measures to avoid contracting the virus while collecting the cash. 4. Readily available fundsBolstered by research (forthcoming) on the positive impacts of Hajati for children, UNICEF Jordan had already secured funding for the programme through to December 2020. This financial buffer allowed UNICEF to scale-up its cash response rapidly, without immediate fundraising. Despite this recent expansion, even more children could benefit from Hajati. If sufficient funds are raised, 50,000 more children could quickly be included, in addition to the 18,000 now benefiting from the recent scale-up. To achieve this, UNICEF Jordan has issued a funding appeal.   Jacobus de Hoop is manager of humanitarian policy research at UNICEF Innocenti. Luisa Natali is a Social Policy Specialist at the UNICEF Innocenti. Alexis Boncenne is Programme Officer in UNICEF Jordan’s Social Protection section. Angie Lee is a Communications Specialist with UNICEF Innocenti. Discover more about UNICEF Innocenti’s research on Social Protection and Cash Transfers, as well as work on Social Protection in Humanitarian Settings. Readers interested in more detailed discussion of shock-responsive social protection can read a literature review by Oxford Policy Management (2017). Those interested in UNICEF’s approach to shock-responsive social protection and humanitarian cash transfers can find out more here and here.
Children on the move in East Africa: Research insights to mitigate COVID-19
Blog

Children on the move in East Africa: Research insights to mitigate COVID-19

Migration is a core coping strategy for many children and young people across the globe, whether on their own or with their families. But it can also make children and young people vulnerable to further harm and deprivation in the absence of adequate and reliable services and social and economic support. While levels of vulnerability are dependent on multiple factors, COVID-19 is likely to pose an additional threat for those who are in transit, and those who have moved away from their homes and are living in uncertain circumstances. The protection of migrant children needs to be a central component of the COVID-19 response. We were scared to ask anyone else for help.If your friends won’t help you, then why would anyone else? - Young female migrant, 19 years old, SomaliaUNICEF Innocenti is leading a research study across Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan exploring the harms, vulnerabilities and wellbeing of children and young people who have left their homes either out of choice or coercion. Over 1,200 children and young people (aged between 14 and 24 years) were surveyed in 2019 and insights from this data point to a number of challenges likely to be faced by both girls and boys, many of whom live in squalid and cramped conditions, in the context of public health responses to curbing the spread of the coronavirus/COVID-19. First, the emphasis on handwashing assumes at a minimum access to water and soap. Yet in our research sample, almost four in ten (37%) of children and young people on the move do not have access to facilities to wash themselves. This is true for those living in camps as well as those in urban or other areas. As health authorities urge people to wash their hands regularly as an effective way to stop virus transmission, this lack of access puts those who have moved away from their homes in much greater harm.   [caption id="attachment_2440" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Mubarak Mohammed Hashi, 20, driving his taxi in Hargeisa, Somaliland, first left home when he was 17 years old in search of what he hoped would be a better life abroad.[/caption] Furthermore, it is not just hygiene and washing facilities that are lacking for these vulnerable children. Many children and young people on the move are excluded from other basic services: one in four have not been able to access health services when they needed them, one in four reported being unable to access shelter or accommodation, and two in five have not been able to go to school when they wanted to. COVID-19 is likely to place further strain on struggling public services, either through greater demand (health) or closures (schools). Inevitably, the result will be more vulnerable children unable to get basic support. Second, many global and national policy responses to COVID-19 – such as lockdown and quarantine - require family and social networks being available to provide support in a time of crisis. Yet in our research sample, one in five children and young people on the move report living alone (and this is more so for boys than girls). As a result, it is likely that they will find it much harder to get the help they need, particularly if the state and public services come under greater strain as the COVID-19 disease spreads. Programmes of support should therefore make sure they can support even the hardest-to-reach vulnerable groups. Where mechanisms such as social distancing and isolation are called for, it cannot be assumed that children and young people have a safe space to which they can retreat. Third, experience so far shows that providing simple, credible information on what the public should or must do is a core part of the strategies for slowing the spread of the virus. Quite rightly, many governments and health agencies are using digital platforms to engage the public, and to allow services such as schooling to be delivered by digital means. However, this assumes access to the internet, and yet our findings show that as few as one in four children and young people on the move had access to the Internet (and as low as 15% for 14-17 years old). Language and other cultural barriers were also seen to present a significant challenge for those who were outside of their country of origin. Communications and engagement campaigns therefore must also unlock non-digital assets and be aware of the need for linguistically and culturally relevant messaging. Boys play football near Hargeisa, Somaliland, a territory that has been particularly affected by ongoing drier and hotter conditions, with the delayed and projected below-average rains.Furthermore, not only are messages that are scientifically grounded important, but so are the messengers for effective communication: issues of trust are crucial in ensuring that people comply with key messaging. Our research suggests that police and government officials are among the least trusted groups for migrant children, while many more have confidence in social workers, religious groups, international charities and teachers. Therefore, it is imperative that governments continue to fund and support these actors to continue to provide much needed information and support to reach migrant children and young people. Fourth, even while we head into the eye of this particular storm it is also important to consider the medium to long-term economic consequences of the health pandemic. Economic concern was a contributing factor for why two in every three child or young person first moved from their home area. If economies are hard hit over the next few months, it is very likely that this will lead to an increase in children and young people being compelled to leave their homes in search of jobs and safety. The impacts of COVID-19 and policy responses on current migrants should not be underestimated. Already at the receiving end of stigma and discrimination, safe migration routes are only likely to shrink further, leaving migrant children and young people further exposed to risks of exploitation in order to facilitate their journeys. Our research points to some of the harms associated with smuggling and trafficking networks in the region. With humanitarian services already stretched far beyond capacity, the economic fallout will only create further negative consequences for those who are already vulnerable. Furthermore, with increasing border closures and regulation, migrant children and young people are likely to find it harder to be united with families who have already migrated or to return home safely. And with so much attention on the demands of a pandemic, mechanisms for protection – such that they are – will only be stretched thinner. ------------------------------------------------ The findings presented here are based on a DFID-funded project on Understanding the Perceptions, Experiences and Vulnerabilities of Children and Young People on the Move in the Horn of Africa. A comprehensive research report is currently being drafted and will be published in the second half of 2020. However, given the seriousness of the current pandemic, UNICEF Innocenti has produced this blog with analysis of relevant findings to provide useful insights to support governments and agencies responsible for protecting and supporting children on the move Additional resources UN Migration Network Statement ‘Covid-19 Does not discriminate, nor should our response’ (20 March 2020): https://migrationnetwork.un.org/statements/covid-19-does-not-discriminate-nor-should-our-response United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ‘Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What you need to know about the virus to protect you and your family’. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/covid-19 Henrietta Fore (UNICEF) ‘Time is running out to protect refugees from a coronavirus crisis, Aljazeera, 31 March 2020. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/time-running-protect-refugees-coronavirus-crisis-200330063002696.html  
Educating the hardest to reach: Lessons from non-formal education in Nepal
Blog

Educating the hardest to reach: Lessons from non-formal education in Nepal

A total of 835,401 children and adolescents were out of school in Nepal in 2017, equivalent to 11.3 per cent of the primary and secondary school aged population (UNESCO – UIS, 2020).[1] This rate varies across the country and population, as barriers related to poverty, social exclusion linked to caste and ethnicity, disability, social norms and gender biases, migration, child labor, mother tongue, and geographical location disproportionately keep children out of school (Nepal Ministry of Education School Sector Development Plan, 2016). Access to education, however, does not guarantee learning. Around 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple story by the end of primary school (World Bank, 2019). In Nepal, one survey found that of the children assessed, over 50 per cent of third graders were unable to understand half of what they were reading, and most were reading only at a grade 1 level. The same study found that 19 per cent of grade 3 students and 37 per cent of grade 2 students could not read a single word (RTI, 2014, as cited in Ministry of Education, 2016). barriers related to poverty, social exclusion, caste and ethnicity, disability, gender biases, migration, child labor, mother tongue, and geographical location disproportionately keep children out of schoolIn response to these challenges in education, UNICEF has been supporting the Government of Nepal to prepare and implement a Consolidated Equity Strategy for the School Education Sector. UNICEF is also working with local municipalities and civil society partners in deprived regions to implement two contextualized approaches to helping the most marginalized out-of-school children access education. The long-standing Girls Access to Education (GATE) programme focuses on helping out-of-school girls return or enroll in the formal education system, while Kheldai Sikne Kendra (KSK), which means ‘Center for Learning by Playing’ provides a more flexible learning model well-suited to reaching out-of-school boys and girls in urban areas. Young learners attend a UNICEF-supported Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) small group activity in Mithila Municipality in Dhanusha District in Nepal’s south.The GATE programme, which receives financial support from Let Us Learn[2], provides full-time non-formal education for a period of nine months, teaching disadvantaged girls the basic literacy, numeracy, and life skills they need to successfully transition into the formal school system. In partnership with 30 local governments, UNICEF supported 300 GATE classes reaching 7,394 girls in Nepal’s Province 2 during the 2018-2019 programme year. Approximately 89 per cent of participants successfully enrolled into formal school upon completion of the programme, exceeding the programme’s original target of 80 per cent. KSK is a newer non-formal education model in Nepal, first conceptualized with stakeholders in 2014, piloted in 2015, and progressively scaled up in partnership with the NGO Samunnat Nepal and local municipalities. There are currently 10 centres present in three provinces, and the programme’s learning modality has also been taken up by 47 alternative learning centers in the same region. KSK provides a child-friendly, flexible-time learning space to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged urban out-of-school boys and girls aged 10 to 19 who may have responsibilities and challenges that do not allow them to regularly attend school. KSK learning centres are open 250 days a year for 6 days a week. Utilizing a multi-grade, multi-level methodology, facilitators closely support and monitor each individual child or adolescent’s learning progress. Through linkages with formal schools, the programme has helped 65% of its 10-13-year-old participants enroll in formal schooling. Through GATE and KSK, UNICEF and its partners are providing an opportunity for groups that would otherwise not have had access to education. This includes ethnic minorities who often face discrimination, such as Dalit castes, which constituted 32 per cent of GATE participants and 40 per cent of KSK programme beneficiaries in 2018. A recent report on out of school children in Nepal found that, strikingly, more than half of children in the primary and lower secondary age school groups of Dom (58.4 per cent) and Mushahar (51.3 per cent) - both Dalit castes - were out of school (UNICEF, 2016). Children from migrant families coming from India, who face constraints in access to education, have also particularly benefited from the KSK programme. Both GATE and KSK are measuring child learning outcomes to understand progress in this area, as access and learning are key goals of non-formal education. In 2018, GATE participants improved their average score on a pre- and post- test by 53 percentage points from the start to the end of the nine-month programme. For KSK, meanwhile, a leveled assessment framework has been piloted to measure progress and map learner achievement to the grade levels of the formal education system.  In addition to learning, positive behavior change in participants – which includes social skills and hygiene and sanitation practices - has been documented as an important outcome of the KSK intervention. if children are not provided with the flexibility to learn on their own terms, they often will not participate in educational opportunities, particularly when their families’ livelihoods depend on their work.KSK’s flexibility has allowed children who work to support their families to visit the centres for learning when their schedule allows them to do so. Children and adolescents often feel a strong responsibility towards their families and may be the designated income earners of their households. In 2018, 62 per cent of KSK participants reported they were engaged in household chores: 63 per cent of all boys reported engaging in household chores while the corresponding figure for girls was 60 per cent.  The remaining 38 per cent of KSK participants reported that they worked in various forms of labor outside of the home to help their family. Labor outside the home was mostly performed by boys; girls were only engaged as street vendors. In contrast, boys were found to work in restaurants, transportation, shops and as factory workers. In a recent site visit to a KSK center in Chitwan, one adolescent participant mentioned that his mother and siblings were in India and that he was working in Nepal to support them. While aiming to return or enroll children and adolescents into formal schooling, the KSK model acknowledges this dilemma: if children are not provided with the flexibility to learn on their own terms, they often will not participate in educational opportunities, particularly when their families’ livelihoods depend on their work. In recent site visits, children from both programmes showed great enthusiasm about their learning experiences and all spoke of their career aspirations. They enjoyed learning and were particularly aware of the benefits of learning English. “If we speak English, we can have a job,” one KSK female student shared. A large share of KSK beneficiaries at one center wanted to be policemen[3]; others wanted to be teachers. Many former and current GATE participants (all girls) also shared that they wanted to be teachers; one girl mentioned that she would grow up to be a rail engineer, defying stereotypes in what is still a society with entrenched gender norms. Despite the accomplishments of these non-formal education programmes, important challenges remain for the achievement of inclusive education in Nepal. According to local government leaders, most children complete up to grade 5, but they start to drop out later. Some GATE graduates interviewed mentioned that, while the non-formal education programmes are free of cost, once enrolled into formal school, they face important financial constraints. For example, while formal education is nominally free, they are still required to pay examination fees (between 50 and 500 NPR, roughly between 0.44 and 4.41 USD) or bear the cost of school supplies and uniforms. In addition, according to World Education, GATE graduates are often discriminated against when they attend formal schools. Due to social biases related to ethnicity or caste, GATE graduates are thought to ‘bring down’ the level of public schools, although a recent internal assessment by World Education revealed that they actually outperformed their formal school student counterparts (World Education, unpublished). When speaking with local leaders about common causes for drop out, important challenges, such as child marriage and parents not caring for their children continuing their studies were raised. For girls, menstruation was cited as leading to missing 3 to 5 days of school every month, leading them eventually to drop out of school. Lastly, the high unemployment rate amongst young people in Nepal makes parents question whether the investment of time and resources yields returns. Indeed, a recent UNICEF report found that lack of parents’ interest (26.1 per cent) was the major reason cited amongst children who had never attended school (Ministry of Education, UNICEF and UNESCO, 2016). GATE and KSK provide strong examples of contextualized approaches to expanding access to education and learning to marginalized out-of-school children in Nepal.  Going forward questions remain as to the replicability and scalability of these programmes in different contexts within the country, which further evidence generation will attempt to help answer. In the meantime, local government leadership in implementing, scaling, and providing financial support to both programmes suggest they currently have a lot to contribute on the pathway towards SDG 4, ensuring that every child in Nepal has access to quality learning. [1] 770 thousand children were not attending school, equivalent to 14.3% of primary and lower secondary school aged children in the country according to the 2011 census (Ministry of Education, UNICEF and UNESCO, 2106). MICS 2014 data places this figure slightly higher - around 16.1 per cent of children were out of school in 2014.[2] Dedicated to bringing the most marginalized children in five countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal - back into school.[3] This is largely attributed to the local implementing partner supporting that particular KSK center being founded by ex-police.  Robert Jenkins is the Associate Director of the Education Section in the Programme Division at UNICEF Headquarters, New York, USA. Priscilla Idele is Deputy Director of the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti in Florence, Italy.
Awkward truths and the changing face of social protection
Blog

Awkward truths and the changing face of social protection

Social protection is a fundamental right and key tool in addressing shocks, vulnerability and poverty. It can make the difference that keeps a child from going to bed hungry and missing school. It can allow people to access essential healthcare and to adapt more easily to climate-related disasters. Expanding coverage and improving the design and implementation of social protection programmes, such as cash transfers and health insurance, can have a significant impact on the most vulnerable households. Increasingly, where we have sex-disaggregated data, we can see that social protection can deliver specific results depending on your gender, and have a varying impact on gender equality outcomes. It would be convenient to portray gender-responsive programming as easy. It isn’t. But it is possible to do, and it is worth it.For example, in many cases cash transfers have been shown to promote girls’ and women’s empowerment. Transfers increase decision-making power over contraceptive use and reduce some forms of violence or harmful practices – which can have an impact on multiple outcomes for children and adults in the home. However, the evidence is not uniformly positive; in some contexts, the impact of cash on different forms of gender-based violence has been mixed, indicating the need for further research. The SDGs are clear that poverty is not just about income. Progress in gender equality is a critical component of our fundamental rights-based goal of reducing or ending all forms of poverty, and of not thinking of poverty purely as a one-dimensional problem of income. We need to invest in rigorous, high quality evidence to ensure that we understand how to take full advantage of what social protection can achieve for girls and women. Most importantly, we must ensure that we do no harm.After the home was destroyed due to fighting, Esra Runno, along with her family, came from Aleppo to take refuge in Turkey in 2013. Esra is 13 years old and studies in a local school in 6th grade. Her family benefits from the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) project aims to increase the number of refugee children enrolled in and attending school in Turkey.Gender-responsive programming doesn’t happen by accidentNext week marks International Women’s Day, and a year since the inter-agency group of actors on social protection called for greater action to promote gender equality in all of our social protection work. This starts with gender-responsive programming which deliberately responds to the specific needs of adults and children of all genders, assessing the gendered norms, experiences and discriminatory practices, and taking measures to actively address specific needs. That pretty much sounds like a no-brainer, and it is an integral part of UNICEF’s Strategic Plan, where we have committed to “strengthen gender-responsive programming in all areas of UNICEF’s work, recognizing the special challenges faced by girls and women.” But the truth is that most of us need to be very intentional about doing this if we are going to make progress.This is a little awkward, because it would be convenient to portray gender-responsive programming as easy. It isn’t. It’s much easier to just pretend that everyone is the same and gender neutral. But it is possible to do, and it is worth it. Forget gender and we fail the children and communities that we serve, and particularly the most marginalised, because there is no getting away from the fact that different facets of poverty are experienced in gendered ways. Where we respond to gender with understanding and intent, we can deliver more inclusive results that reach more of the most marginalised in health, nutrition, education, sexual and reproductive health rights and gender-based violence. With gender-transformational programming, we can pitch our ambition even higher, to actively shift harmful gender norms in the long-term. How serious are we about stepping up?The time is now for stepping up ambition on this work. That’s because we’ve set in train a lot of work to try and make this difficult task as straight forward as possible. In UNICEF, we are drilling down to make our work towards gender-responsive social protection both intentional and specific. We are: Analysing our 140+ country office social protection programmes, to identify where there is potential to really step up our ambition. Around 20% of country offices are already explicitly aiming to support gender-sensitive, gender-responsive and gender-transformational social protection work, which is a strong foundation to build on. But we know we can do more, and we plan to;Developing accessible and concise tools and guidance where gaps remain, and republicising rather than reinventing the wheel where they already exist, such as this excellent FAO guidance;Showcasing trailblazers who recognise that gender discrimination is fundamentally linked to poverty, and intersects with other characteristics that lead to systemic social exclusion and marginalisation. These trailblazers are already working towards gender-responsive or gender-transformational social protection, and there is much to learn from this work around the world;Working in partnership with national governments, other UN agencies, civil society and other key partners such as DFID and the World Bank, identifying opportunities to work and learn together;Paying attention to what is already out there, like the brilliant research produced by Innocenti, The Transfer Project, ODI and many others;Pooling our collective weight in programmes and research within UNICEF, to shape and roll out the new DFID-funded Gender-Responsive and Age-Sensitive Research Programme on Social Protection, embedding an evidence-into-action approach from inception.Gloria and her mother, Charity. Gloria is a beneficiary of the Service Efficiency and Effectiveness for Vulnerable Children and Adolescents education grant. While Charity is a Social Cash Transfer beneficiary. Ndola, Copperbelt Province, Zambia.Our work will only become easier with the growing evidence base and practical experience at our fingertips. For now, we’ve got to work with what we’ve got, and translate the high-level ambition into the nuts and bolts of our work, adapting as we learn. This can mean a range of things, from: undertaking gender-responsive vulnerability analysis; todrawing on context specific evidence on gender norms to support decisions about design choices, communication plans and risk mitigation strategies; todesigning outcome indicators and M&E systems with gendered risks and opportunities at the heart of our thinking.The alternative is to ignore gender, and risk squandering the opportunity to deliver what is possible for the most marginalised – and even risk doing harm. That’s not a risk we can afford to take. Ruth Graham-Goulder is a Social Policy & Gender Specialist in the Social Policy Section at UNICEF HQ, supporting UNICEF social protection programme design globally and leading on a new organisational workstream on gender-responsive social protection.
Reducing poverty while achieving gender equality: the potential of social protection
Blog

Reducing poverty while achieving gender equality: the potential of social protection

The UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti has launched a new four-year research programme called Gender-Responsive and Age-Sensitive Social Protection (GRASSP), funded by the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID), and other partners. The research programme will examine how gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection can reduce poverty and achieve gender equality sustainably. It will also examine how social protection can better address and prevent stubborn vulnerabilities and inequalities experienced by people simply because of their sex or age. Why GRASSP matters now? The timing of this work could not be more opportune. In 2020 the SDGs enter a decade of acceleration toward the lofty goal of leaving no one behind. Among the many targets we find: end all forms of poverty everywhere (Goal 1), achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (Goal 5), and empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all—irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic or other status (Target 10.2). Five years ago, when the SDGs were launched, the UN General Assembly pledged that steps to ‘follow up and review’ these goals would be ‘evidence informed.’ With ten years to go, and more evidence to build, the GRASSP research programme is well-placed to support these ambitions. GRASSP also begins in a landmark year for other international commitments on gender equality, poverty reduction, and social protection. The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) will be a time for reflection on how Governments have delivered on their commitments to advance the goals of equality, development, and peace for all women, everywhere. The Commission on the Status of Women in March will review and appraise the progress made since, including assessing current challenges affecting implementation. 2020 also marks a year for action as the Economic and Social Council (ESC) called on all States to undertake comprehensive national-level reviews of progress made and challenges encountered since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration. Specifically, the ESC is encouraging UN Regional Commissions to feed into a global review, and has urged national governments to collaborate in this process with all relevant stakeholders—including civil society organizations, community leaders, the private sector, United Nations entities, and academia—so as to benefit from their experience and expertise.Jhuma Akhter (14) at the Maitry Adolescent Club, where teenagers learn life skills after school, in Khulna, Bangladesh.What the evidence does not yet tell us? It is clear that international bodies and national governments are using evidence to strengthen their initiatives and ambitions for achieving gender equity, as well as reducing poverty and vulnerability in a gender and age-sensitive way. This leads to the question, ‘what does the evidence tell us and what do we not yet know?’ During the inception phase for GRASSP, which ran through late 2018 and 2019, the research team at Innocenti compiled a wealth of evidence on gender inequalities. This evidence highlights the unequal burden of poverty on women and girls, how women are lagging behind on labour market outcomes, and the impact of many other adverse socio-economic outcomes, including unequal responsibility for care and domestic work. Across 11 expert think pieces, further evidence shows how social protection can have intended and unintended positive effects on development outcomes, often for women and girls. There is also evidence on how social protection policy design and implementation can be considered more or less gender-sensitive along a gender integration continuum. Despite this learning, much of the evidence, as yet, does not explore the impact of age, when adolescent girls may be direct or indirect recipients of social protection. In order to break the inter-generational and interlinked cycles of gender disadvantage and inequality, we need to know more about these age-sensitive impacts across the life-course for women and girls, including which age groups benefit most from gender-responsive social protection, and how design and implementation can be tailored for them. Implementation is another critical stage in the social protection delivery cycle where we don’t have much evidence. For example, are programmes being delivered in the way they were designed and  do they respond to women’s needs? There is limited evidence on the factors that influence the development of gender-responsive social protection systems, including the political economy needed for reform. While evaluations show the positive effects of social protection, indicators used to assess the transformative potential of social protection are limited. We do not know enough about design and implementation features linked to both positive and negative effects. Furthermore, the role of bureaucrats and frontline workers in shaping outcomes on the ground is well-noted in feminist literature and brings an additional set of measures and opportunities for learning.Mother leaders of a cash transfer programme in the community of Tanandava, MadagascarHow will GRASSP fill these evidence gaps? Over the next four years, GRASSP will fill some of these gaps by working across multiple regions and using a mix of research methods, to capitalize on this demand for evidence and to support action for gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection. Three streams of work will: Reconceptualize the intersection of gender and social protection using a life-course lens, and review the existing literature using this approach;Evaluate the impacts and assess the role of design implementation features in social protection programmes to contribute to gender equality;Unpack the political economy and practicalities of public policy reform involving gender-responsive social protection.GRASSP’s multi-country approach to research compares similar policies and programmes implemented in very different contexts. This improves understanding of the generalisability of good practices, and how these can be scaled within, and transferred between, countries with gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection. The mix of quantitative and qualitative research strategies allows us to not only to understand the incidence and pervasiveness of gender inequalities (and the programmes to address these), but also the lived experiences of individuals, households, policymakers, and other stakeholders either receiving or delivering these policies. GRASSP is a multi-stakeholder partnership between UNICEF country offices, national Governments, universities, international organisations, and donors. This collaboration exploits synergies to advance the gender-responsive social protection research agenda through rigorous evidence to inform decision-making and stimulate debate, with the aim of putting gender equality at the forefront of social protection research, discourse, policy, and practice. We look forward to the work unfolding and engaging with many collaborators and interested researchers, advocates, practitioners, and policy makers as we go along!   Dominic Richardson leads Social Policy and Economic Analysis at UNICEF Innocenti, where he oversees work on cash transfers in sub-Saharan Africa, multiple overlapping deprivation analysis, the Innocenti Report Card Series, and research on family policies and child well-being. Ramya Subrahmanian is Chief of Child Rights and Protection at UNICEF-Innocenti, where she oversees work on migration, violence against children, and child protection.Explore UNICEF Innocenti’s work on Gender-Responsive and Age-Sensitive Social Protection. Read 11 think pieces by gender and social protection experts written to stimulate discussion on the topic.
49 - 60 of 170