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UNICEF Innocenti's complete catalogue of research and reports
Reimagining Migration Responses: Learning from children and young people who move in the Horn of Africa
SPOTLIGHT

Reimagining Migration Responses: Learning from children and young people who move in the Horn of Africa

The number of international migrants under 18 is rising, accelerated by complex and fast-evolving economic, demographic, security and environmental drivers. Based on interviews carried out with 1,290 migrant children and young people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, this report helps address the evidence gap on children and young people migrating in the Horn of Africa by providing a better understanding of their protective environments; their access to services and resources; and their perceptions of safety, well-being and trust in authorities and other providers. It concludes by offering policy and programme recommendations to rethink child protection approaches for migrants in the region.
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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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Cash for Women’s Empowerment? A Mixed-Methods Evaluation of the Government of Zambia’s Child Grant Programme
Cash for Women’s Empowerment? A Mixed-Methods Evaluation of the Government of Zambia’s Child Grant Programme
Published: 2016 Innocenti Working Papers

This paper reports findings from a mixed-methods evaluation of the Government of Zambia’s Child Grant Programme, a poverty-targeted, unconditional transfer given to mothers or primary caregivers of young children aged 0 to 5. Qualitatively, we found that changes in intrahousehold relationships were limited by entrenched gender norms, which indicate men as heads of household and primary decision-makers. However, women’s narratives showed the transfer did increase overall household well-being because they felt increased financial empowerment and were able to retain control over transfers for household investment and savings for emergencies. The study found that women in beneficiary households were making more sole and joint decisions, although impacts translated into relatively modest increases.

Prevention, Protection, and Production: Evidence from the Zambian Child Grant Programme
Prevention, Protection, and Production: Evidence from the Zambian Child Grant Programme

AUTHOR(S)
Audrey Pereira

Published: 2016 Innocenti Research Briefs

The majority of cash transfers in developing countries focus on conditional cash transfers and typically include beneficiary co-responsibilities as a condition for receiving transfers, such as children’s school attendance or growth-monitoring visits. However, in sub-Saharan Africa cash transfer programmes are mostly unconditional, and have the potential to impact households across a wider range of social and productive domains. This Brief summarizes the Zambian Child Grant Programme and looks at the impacts on recipient households.

The Zambian Government Unconditional Social CashTransfer Programme Does Not Increase Fertility
The Zambian Government Unconditional Social CashTransfer Programme Does Not Increase Fertility

AUTHOR(S)
Lisa Hjelm; Tia Palermo

Published: 2016 Innocenti Research Briefs

This is the first study from sub-Saharan Africa examining the relation between cash transfers and fertility using a large-sample social experiment design and reporting fertility histories of individual women. The findings are important because they provide strong evidence that a social protection programme targeted to families with young children does not create the unintended effect of increased fertility.

Unconditional Government Social Cash Transfers in Africa Do Not Increase Fertility: Issue Brief
Unconditional Government Social Cash Transfers in Africa Do Not Increase Fertility: Issue Brief

AUTHOR(S)
Tia Palermo; Lisa Hjelm

Published: 2016 Innocenti Research Briefs

A common perception surrounding the design and implementation of social cash transfers is that those targeted to families with young children will incentivize families to have more children. To date, however, research on unconditional cash transfer programmes in Africa (including Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia) have demonstrated no impacts of cash transfer programmes on increased fertility. Examples are given of how some design features capable of minimizing the fertility incentive can be built into programmes.

The Impact of Cash Transfers on Food Security
The Impact of Cash Transfers on Food Security

AUTHOR(S)
Lisa Hjelm

Published: 2016 Innocenti Research Briefs

Vulnerable populations in sub-Saharan African countries often face high levels of food insecurity which disproportionately affect households living in poverty and children are particularly at risk. This review of eight social cash transfer programme evaluations has shown that cash transfers have an impact on several different dimensions of food security. However, few evaluations include child-specific questions and to make stronger links between food security and nutrition status individual-level indicators are needed. Despite limitations, there is good evidence that cash transfers have a large impact on food security.

Cash Transfers Improve the Mental Health and Well-being of Youth: Evidence from the Kenyan Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children
Cash Transfers Improve the Mental Health and Well-being of Youth: Evidence from the Kenyan Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children

AUTHOR(S)
Audrey Pereira

Published: 2016 Innocenti Research Briefs

Approximately half of all mental health disorders begin by age 14, and three-quarters by age 24. Among adolescents, depression is one of the leading contributors to morbidity, while suicide and interpersonal violence are among the leading causes of mortality. Mental ill-health also reinforces poverty through decreased productivity and loss of earnings, increased health expenditures, and social stigma. Since the evidence on the effects of poverty-alleviation programmes on mental health have been inconclusive, there is a need for research on specific poverty-alleviation interventions for vulnerable groups who are more at risk for poor mental well-being.

Making Money Work: Unconditional cash transfers allow women to save and re-invest in rural Zambia
Making Money Work: Unconditional cash transfers allow women to save and re-invest in rural Zambia
Published: 2016 Innocenti Working Papers

Savings play a crucial role in faciliating investment in income-generating activities and the pathway out of poverty for low-income households in developing settings. Yet, there is little evidence of successful programmes that increase savings, particularly those that are simultaneously cost effective, scaleable and  address gender inequalities. This paper examines the impact of the Government of Zambia’s Child Grant Programme (CGP), an unconditional cash transfer targeted to women in households with young children, on women’s savings and participation in non-farm enterprises.

Findings show that the CGP enabled poor women to save more cash and that the impact is larger for women who had lower decision-making power at baseline. The results support the proposition that cash transfers have the potential for long-term sustainable improvements in women’s financial position and household well-being by promoting savings and facilitating productive investments among low-income rural households.

Inequalities in Adolescent Health and Life Satisfaction: Evidence from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study
Inequalities in Adolescent Health and Life Satisfaction: Evidence from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study
Published: 2016 Innocenti Working Papers

International studies of inequalities in adolescent health tend to focus on the socio-economic gradient in average outcomes rather than their dispersion within countries. Although understanding the extent to which differences in health are related to socio-economic disadvantage is important, focusing exclusively on socio-economic status risks neglecting differences in the distribution of health outcomes within and between countries. To fill this research gap, this study analyses variation in the extent of inequality in the lower half of the distribution in five indicators of adolescent health and well-being – health symptoms, physical activity, healthy eating, unhealthy eating, and life satisfaction – across EU and/or OECD countries that took part in the latest cycle of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study.

Poverty and Children’s Cognitive Trajectories: Evidence from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study
Poverty and Children’s Cognitive Trajectories: Evidence from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study
Published: 2016 Innocenti Working Papers

Existing evidence is inconclusive on whether a socio-economic gradient in children’s cognitive ability widens, narrows or remains stable over time and there is little research on the extent of ‘cognitive mobility’ of children who had a poor start in life compared to their peers. Using data from five sweeps of the United Kingdom (UK) Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) at the ages of 9 months, 3 years, 5 years, 7 years and 11 years, this paper explores the cognitive ability trajectory of children in the bottom decile of the distribution at a given age, and the factors that drive or hinder their progress relative to their peers. The paper analyses children’s risks of moving in and out of the bottom decile of the cognitive ability distribution. The findings indicate a relatively high level of cognitive mobility between ages 3 and 11, especially in the pre-school period (between ages 3 and 5), with children from income-poor households more likely to get ‘trapped’ in the bottom of the age-specific cognitive ability distribution.

Bottom-end Inequality: Are children with an immigrant background at a disadvantage?
Bottom-end Inequality: Are children with an immigrant background at a disadvantage?
Published: 2016 Innocenti Research Briefs

The extent to which the socio-demographic composition of child populations drives inequality in child well-being depends on which children are most likely to do much worse than their peers. In this Research Brief we present evidence on the socio-economic vulnerability of immigrant children and highlight the relative contribution of immigrant background to the risks of falling behind in household income, education, health and life satisfaction.

Cash Transfers and Gender: A closer look at the Zambian Child Grant Programme
Cash Transfers and Gender: A closer look at the Zambian Child Grant Programme
Published: 2016 Innocenti Research Briefs

In 2010, the Zambian Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health began implementation of the Child Grant Programme with the goals of reducing extreme poverty and breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty. The impact of the grant was explored across a range of outcomes for women over the medium term (two to four years).

One of the difficult aspects of assessing this evidence is the myriad of indicators used to measure ‘empowerment’. For example, researchers have used indicators ranging from women’s intra-household decision-making to social networks, land or asset ownership, and interpret all these as ‘empowerment’, making it difficult to draw conclusions. The analysis is complemented with qualitative data to understand the meaning women and men place on empowerment in the rural communities. Although more evidence is needed to understand how cash transfers can empower women in Africa, women’s savings and participation in small businesses were seen to have increased, giving them more autonomy over cash and improving their financial standing.

Parenting, Family Care and Adolescence in East and Southern Africa: An evidence-focused literature review
Parenting, Family Care and Adolescence in East and Southern Africa: An evidence-focused literature review
Published: 2016 Innocenti Discussion Papers

Based on an evidence-focused literature review, this paper examines existing knowledge on raising adolescents in east and southern African countries, including Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Country selection was based on the availability of relevant literature and data. The vast majority of studies on parenting and adolescent development is based on research from the global north. This research sought to deepen understandings of family life, care practices and support networks in the east and southern African region so as to inform policy and interventions that seek to improve adolescent-family relations and reduce risk behaviours. An evidence-informed model for understanding the ecology of adolescent-parent relationships in the cultural and economic contexts of the region is provided. In addition, a framework for exploring contextually-relevant dimensions of parenting through research and practice is offered.

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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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