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UNICEF Innocenti's complete catalogue of research and reports
Life in Lockdown: Child and adolescent mental health and well-being in the time of COVID-19
SPOTLIGHT

Life in Lockdown: Child and adolescent mental health and well-being in the time of COVID-19

COVID-19 lockdowns have significantly disrupted the daily lives of children and adolescents, with increased time at home, online learning and limited physical social interaction. This report seeks to understand the immediate effects on their mental health. Covering more than 130,000 children and adolescents across 22 countries, the evidence shows increased stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as increased alcohol and substance use, and  externalizing behavioural problems. Children and adolescents also reported positive coping strategies, resilience, social connectedness through digital media, more family time, and relief from academic stress. Factors such as demographics, relationships and pre-existing conditions are critical. To ensure children and adolescents are supported, the report recommends building the evidence on the longer-term impact of the pandemic on child and adolescent mental health in low- and middle-income countries, including vulnerable populations. To ensure children and adolescents are supported, the report recommends building the evidence on the longer-term impact of the pandemic on child and adolescent mental health in low- and middle-income countries, including vulnerable populations.
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COVID-19: Missing More Than a Classroom. The impact of school closures on children’s nutrition
Blog Blog

COVID-19: Missing More Than a Classroom. The impact of school closures on children’s nutrition

In 2019, 135 million people in 55 countries were in food crises or worse, and 2 billion people did not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. COVID-19 has exacerbated these hardships and may result in an additional 121 million people facing acute food insecurity by the end of 2020. Further, since the beginning of the pandemic, an estimated 1.6 billion learners in 199 countries worldwide were affected by school closures, with nearly 370 million children not receiving a school meal in 150 countries. The paper presents the evidence on the potential negative short-term and long-term effects of school meal scheme disruption during Covid-19 globally. It shows how vulnerable the children participating in these schemes are, how coping and mitigation measures are often only short-term solutions, and how prioritizing school re-opening is critical. For instance, it highlights how girls are at greater risk of not being in school or of being taken out of school early, which may lead to poor nutrition and health for themselves and their children. However, well-designed school feeding programmes have been shown to enable catch-up from early growth failure and other negative shocks. As such, once schools re-open, school meal schemes can help address the deprivation that children have experienced during the closures and provide an incentive for parents to send and keep their children, especially girls, in school.
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Worlds of Influence: Understanding What Shapes Child Well-being in Rich Countries
Worlds of Influence: Understanding What Shapes Child Well-being in Rich Countries
Published: 2020 Innocenti Report Card

A new look at children from the world’s richest countries offers a mixed picture of their health, skills and happiness. For far too many, issues such as poverty, exclusion and pollution threaten their mental well-being, physical health and opportunities to develop skills. Even countries with good social, economic and environmental conditions are a long way from meeting the targets set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Focused and accelerated action is needed if these goals are to be met.

The evidence from 41 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union (EU) countries tells its own story: from children’s chances of survival, growth and protection, to whether they are learning and feel listened to, to whether their parents have the support and resources to give their children the best chance for a healthy, happy childhood. This report reveals children’s experiences against the backdrop of their country’s policies and social, educational, economic and environmental contexts.

A Cash Plus Model for Safe Transitions to a Healthy and Productive Adulthood: Midline Report
A Cash Plus Model for Safe Transitions to a Healthy and Productive Adulthood: Midline Report
Published: 2020 Innocenti Research Report
This report provides midline findings from the impact evaluation of a cash plus model targeting youth in households receiving the United Republic of Tanzania’s Productive Social Safety Net (PSSN). Implemented by the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF), with technical assistance of the Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS) and UNICEF Tanzania, the programme aims to improve livelihood opportunities and facilitate a safe transition to adulthood. The 'plus' component included training on livelihoods and sexual and reproductive health (SRH)-HIV, mentoring and productive grants, as well as linkages to youth-friendly health services. The impact evaluation is a longitudinal, mixed methods study. The midline analysis was conducted immediately after training (before mentoring, disbursement of productive grants and health facility strengthening). The baseline report is available here.
Cite this publication | No. of pages: 160 | Thematic area: Social Policies | Tags: social protection, social safety nets, youth
A Rapid Review of Economic Policy and Social Protection Responses to Health and Economic Crises and Their Effects on Children: Lessons for the COVID-19 pandemic response
A Rapid Review of Economic Policy and Social Protection Responses to Health and Economic Crises and Their Effects on Children: Lessons for the COVID-19 pandemic response
Published: 2020 Innocenti Working Papers

This rapid review seeks to inform the initial and long-term public policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, by assessing evidence on past economic policy and social protection responses to health and economic crises and their effects on children and families. The review focuses on virus outbreaks/emergencies, economic crises and natural disasters, which, like the COVID-19 pandemic, were 'rapid' in onset, had wide-ranging geographical reach, and resulted in disruption of social services and economic sectors, without affecting governance systems. Evidence is also drawn from the HIV/AIDS pandemic, due to its impacts on adult mortality rates and surviving children.

The available evidence on the effects of economic policy and social protection responses is uneven across outcomes, regions, and type of policy response as a large body of literature focused on social assistance programmes. Future research on the COVID-19 pandemic can prioritize the voices of children and the marginalized, assess the effects of expansionary and austerity measures,  examine the role of design and implementation, social care services, pre-existing macro-level health, demographic and health conditions and the diverse regional health and economic impacts of the pandemic. The paper also provides key lessons for public policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Cash Transfers and Child Nutrition in Zambia
Cash Transfers and Child Nutrition in Zambia
Published: 2019 Innocenti Working Papers
We examine the effect of the Zambia Child Grant Programme – an unconditional cash transfer (CT) targeted to rural families with children under age five – on height-for-age four years after programme initiation. The CT scheme had large positive effects on several nutritional inputs including food expenditure and meal frequency. However, there was no effect on height-for-age. Production function estimates indicate that food carries little weight in the production of child height. Health knowledge of mothers and health infrastructure in the study sites are also very poor. These factors plus the harsh disease environment are too onerous to be overcome by the increases in food intake generated by the CT. In such settings, a stand-alone CT, even when it has large positive effects on food security, is unlikely to have an impact on long-term chronic malnutrition unless accompanied by complementary interventions.
Social Protection, Cash Transfers and Long-Term Poverty Reduction: Transfer Project Workshop Brief 2019
Social Protection, Cash Transfers and Long-Term Poverty Reduction: Transfer Project Workshop Brief 2019

AUTHOR(S)
Michelle Mills

Published: 2019 Innocenti Research Briefs
Celebrating ten years of building evidence for action on cash transfers in Africa, UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) organized the seventh regional Transfer Project workshop on “Social Protection, Cash Transfers and Long-Term Poverty Reduction”* in Arusha, Tanzania from 2 to 4 April 2019. Over 130 social  protection experts and stakeholders from 20 African countries attended, including government officials, UNICEF and FAO staff, academics, NGOs and other development partners.
Cite this publication | No. of pages: 5 | Thematic area: Social Policies | Tags: cash transfers, SDGs, social protection
I paesi più ricchi del mondo sostengono le famiglie? Politiche dell’OCSE e dell’UE
I paesi più ricchi del mondo sostengono le famiglie? Politiche dell’OCSE e dell’UE
Published: 2019 Innocenti Research Report
I bambini hanno migliori prospettive di vita e i genitori sono in grado di bilanciare meglio il lavoro e gli altri impegni in paesi che hanno delle politiche a sostegno delle famiglie. Queste includono il congedo parentale retribuito, il sostegno per l’allattamento al seno, l’assistenza all’infanzia e l’educazione prescolare a prezzi accessibili e di alta qualità. Il presente rapporto esamina le politiche favorevoli alla famiglia di 41 paesi ad alto e medio reddito attraverso quattro indicatori a livello nazionale: la durata delle ferie retribuite a disposizione delle madri, la durata delle ferie retribuite riservata specificamente ai padri, la quota di bambini sotto i tre anni nei nidi e centri per l’infanzia e la quota di bambini tra i tre anni e l’età dell’obbligo scolastico nei centri e scuole per l’infanzia. Svezia, Norvegia e Islanda sono i tre paesi che più sostengono le famiglie per i quali disponiamo di dati completi. Cipro, Grecia e Svizzera occupano gli ultimi tre posti. Dieci dei 41 paesi non dispongono di dati sufficienti sull’infanzia per essere inseriti nella nostra classifica. Non abbiamo a disposizione abbastanza informazioni aggiornate per mettere a confronto i diversi paesi sulla qualità dei centri per l’infanzia o sulle tariffe e le politiche per l’allattamento al seno. Per i paesi più ricchi esiste un margine per migliorare le loro politiche familiari e per raccogliere dati più accurati.
Are the world’s richest countries family friendly? Policy in the OECD and EU
Are the world’s richest countries family friendly? Policy in the OECD and EU
Published: 2019 Innocenti Research Report
Children get a better start in life and parents are better able to balance work and home commitments in countries that have family-friendly policies. These include paid parental leave, support for breastfeeding and affordable, high-quality childcare and preschool education. This report looks at family-friendly policies in 41 high- and middle-income countries using four country-level indicators: the duration of paid leave available to mothers; the duration of paid leave reserved specifically for fathers; the share of children below the age of three in childcare centres; and the share of children  between the age of three and compulsory school age in childcare or preschool centres. Sweden, Norway and Iceland are the three most family-friendly countries for which we have complete data. Cyprus, Greece and Switzerland occupy the bottom three places. Ten of the 41 countries do not have sufficient data on childcare enrolment to be ranked in our league table. There is not enough up-to-date information available for us to compare across countries the quality of childcare centres or breastfeeding rates and policies. There is scope for the world’s richest countries to improve their family policies and collect better data.
Exploring the potential of cash transfers to delay early marriage and pregnancy among youth in Malawi and Zambia
Exploring the potential of cash transfers to delay early marriage and pregnancy among youth in Malawi and Zambia
Published: 2019 Innocenti Research Briefs
There is increasing interest in the potential of cash transfers to facilitate safe transitions to adulthood among vulnerable youth in low-income settings. However, little evidence exists that analyses these linkages from at-scale government-run programmes. This brief summarizes the impacts of two government-run large-scale unconditional cash transfers on outcomes of early marriage and pregnancy among youth in Malawi and Zambia after approximately three years. Results indicate limited impacts on safe transitions for both males and females. However, the programmes were successful in reducing poverty and improving schooling outcomes—two main pathways for safe transitions as reported in the literature. Research implications include the need to study transitions over longer time periods, including tracking of youth as they transition out of study households. If reducing early marriage and pregnancy is among policy makers’ primary priorities, then dedicated programming via cash plus or services specifically targeted at addressing the needs of adolescents and youth should be considered.
Cite this publication | No. of pages: 3 | Thematic area: Social Policies | Tags: cash transfers, early marriage, pregnancy, youth
Can social assistance (with a child lens) help in reducing urban poverty in Ghana? Evidence, challenges and the way forward
Can social assistance (with a child lens) help in reducing urban poverty in Ghana? Evidence, challenges and the way forward
Published: 2018 Innocenti Working Papers
Experience with urban social assistance programmes is still limited. Many of the existing urban programmes are extensions or duplicates of rural programmes, but urban-sensitive social protection needs to reflect the distinct vulnerabilities of the urban poor. Furthermore, applying a child lens requires identifying and addressing the specific risks and multiple deprivations that are experienced by half of urban children in developing countries. As a result, designing social assistance for urban contexts faces challenges such as accurately targeting the poor (given the spatial geography of urban poverty) and setting appropriate payment levels (given the high and variable costs of urban living). Geographic targeting (e.g. informal settlements), proxy means testing (if urban-sensitive) and categorical targeting (e.g. street children) are popular mechanisms in urban areas, but community-based targeting is often inappropriate (because of urban social fragmentation) while self-targeting can be unethical (e.g. where wages below market rates are paid in public works projects) and might contradict rights-based approaches. These are relevant challenges to address when designing urban social protection programmes. We apply these reflections to Ghana. The country is a relevant case study because it is growing and urbanizing rapidly.  But as the result of urbanization, urban poverty and deprivations are rising even though national poverty rates have halved. Anti-poverty policies and social protection interventions remain biased towards the rural poor. The ‘urbanization of poverty’ in Ghana has created problems such as overcrowded housing, limited access to sanitation, and outbreaks of communicable diseases. This paper provides guidance on the critical questions to ask to design in Ghana a successful urban social protection programme with a child lens.
Political Connections No Longer Determine Targeting of Social Protection: A successful case study from Ethiopia
Political Connections No Longer Determine Targeting of Social Protection: A successful case study from Ethiopia

AUTHOR(S)
Elsa Valli

Published: 2018 Innocenti Research Briefs
Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of donor funds for development and emergency interventions. As such, its targeting of social protection has received substantial attention. In particular, concerns have been raised that political connections could play a role in determining the selection of beneficiaries. With the introduction in 2005 of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), Ethiopia implemented various policies aimed at increasing transparency in the targeting of social protection. This case study compares targeting before and during the implementation of PSNP, and shows improvements in targeting for both public works and emergency aid in relation to the dimensions of poverty, food security and political connections. Most notably, political connections are no longer found to determine the receipt of benefits during the implementation of PSNP.
Cite this publication | No. of pages: 4 | Thematic area: Social Policies | Tags: ethiopia, social protection
Targeting of Social Protection in 11 Ethiopian villages
Targeting of Social Protection in 11 Ethiopian villages

AUTHOR(S)
Elsa Valli

Published: 2018 Innocenti Working Papers
Social protection in Ethiopia is primarily allocated through community-based targeting. The few studies that have analysed the efficacy of aid targeting in Ethiopia have revealed targeting biases in regard to demography, geography and political affiliations. With the introduction in Ethiopia in 2005 of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), a major social protection programme, various administrative guidelines were introduced (and subsequently periodically revised) with the aim of improving targeting. This paper uses data from the last two rounds of the Ethiopian Rural Household Survey to investigate whether PSNP implementation resulted in changes in both targeting determinants and amount received for public works (a component of PSNP) and emergency aid between 2004 and 2009 in 11 rural villages. In general, public works appear to have been allocated on the basis of observable poverty-related characteristics, and emergency aid according to household demographics. In addition, the results suggest that, for both public works and emergency aid beneficiaries, political connections were significant in determining the receipt of aid in 2004 but that this was no longer the case by 2009, indicating an improvement in the channeling of social protection to its intended target groups. However, a household’s experience of recent shocks was found to bear no relationship to receipt of support, which suggests that a more flexible and shock-responsive implementation could improve targeting for transitory needs.
Evidence on Social Protection in Contexts of Fragility and Forced Displacement
Evidence on Social Protection in Contexts of Fragility and Forced Displacement
Published: 2018 Innocenti Research Briefs
Rigorous research in humanitarian settings is possible when researchers and programmers work together, particularly in the early stages when responses to humanitarian challenges are designed. Six new rigorous research studies from five countries: Ecuador, Mali, Niger, Lebanon and Yemen illustrate this point.
Cite this publication | No. of pages: 7 | Thematic area: Social Policies | Tags: social protection
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Learning at a Distance: Children’s remote learning experiences in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic
Publication Publication

Learning at a Distance: Children’s remote learning experiences in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Italy was the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown. Children and their families lived in nearly complete isolation for almost two months. Students missed 65 days of school compared to an average of 27 missed days among high-income countries worldwide. This prolonged break is of concern, as even short breaks in schooling can cause significant loss of learning for children and lead to educational inequalities over time. At least 3 million Italian students may not have been reached by remote learning due to a lack of internet connectivity or devices at home. This report explores children’s and parents’ experiences of remote learning during the lockdown in Italy, drawing on data collected from 11 European countries (and coordinated by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center). It explores how children's access and use of digital technologies changed during the pandemic; highlights how existing inequalities might undermine remote learning opportunities, even among those with internet access; and provides insights on how to support children’s remote learning in the future. *** L'Italia e’ stata il primo paese in Europa ad aver applicato la misura del lockdown su tutto il territorio. I bambini e le loro famiglie hanno vissuto in quasi completo isolamento per circa due mesi. Gli studenti hanno perduto 65 giorni di scuola rispetto ad una media di 27 negli altri paesi ad alto reddito del mondo. Questa interruzione prolungata rappresenta motivo di preoccupazione, in quanto persino interruzioni piu’ brevi nella didattica possono causare significative perdite nel livello di istruzione dei ragazzi e portare col tempo a diseguaglianze educative. Almeno 3 milioni di studenti in Italia non sono stati coinvolti nella didattica a distanza a causa d una mancanza di connessione ad internet o di dispositivi adeguati a casa. Questo rapporto analizza l’esperienza della didattica a distanza di ragazzi e genitori in Italia durante il lockdown, sulla base dei dati raccolti in 11 paesi europei (e coordinati dal Centro comune di ricerca della Commissione Europea). Studia il cambiamento nell’accesso e nell’uso delle tecnologie digitali dei bambini e ragazzi durante la pandemia; mette in evidenza come le diseguaglianze esistenti possano diminuire le opportunità offerte dalla didattica a distanza, anche tra coloro che hanno accesso ad internet; e fornisce approfondimenti su come sostenere la didattica a distanza di bambini e ragazzi in futuro.
Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in Eastern and Southern Africa
Publication Publication

Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in Eastern and Southern Africa

There is a learning crisis. Fifty-three per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries are in ‘learning poverty’, i.e. they cannot read and understand a simple text by the end of primary school age. In sub- Saharan Africa, the learning poverty rate is 87 per cent overall, and ranges from 40 per cent to as high as 99 per cent in the 21 countries with available data. Teachers attending lessons and spending quality time on task is a critical prerequisite to learning. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, teacher absenteeism ranges from 15 to 45 per cent. Teacher absenteeism and reduced time on task wastes valuable financial resources, short-changes students and is one of the most cumbersome obstacles on the path toward the education Sustainable Development Goal and to the related vision of the new UNICEF education strategy: Every Child Learns. Whilst the stark numbers are available to study, and despite teacher absenteeism being a foremost challenge for education systems in Africa, the evidence base on how policies and practices can influence teacher attendance remains scant. Time to Teach (TTT) is a research initiative that looks at primary school teacher attendance in eight countries and territories in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region: the Comoros; Kenya; Rwanda, Puntland, State of Somalia; South Sudan; the United Republic of Tanzania, mainland; the United Republic of Tanzania, Zanzibar; and Uganda. Its primary objective is to identify factors affecting the various forms of teacher attendance, which include being at school, being punctual, being in the classroom, and teaching when in the classroom, and use this evidence to inform the design and implementation of teacher policies.

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