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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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COVID-19 and the Looming Debt Crisis: Protecting and Transforming Social Spending for Inclusive Recoveries
COVID-19 and the Looming Debt Crisis: Protecting and Transforming Social Spending for Inclusive Recoveries
Published: 2021 Innocenti Research Report

Compounding the COVID-19 pandemic is a looming debt crisis for low- and middle-income countries where a growing debt burden threatens to crowd out social spending for children.

This policy brief explores whether the current support from the international community is enough to maintain spending on basic services during COVID-19. It highlights countries that are most at risk due to high levels of poverty, as well as those less likely to benefit from the G20 Debt Standstill (DSSI). It concludes that a new international debt restructuring architecture, which encompasses the needs of poorer countries, is crucial to protecting children’s rights in the wake of COVID-19. 

Best of UNICEF Research and Evaluation 2020
Best of UNICEF Research and Evaluation 2020
Published: 2020 Miscellanea

Evidence and objective assessment are needed more than ever to help enhance the rights and well-being of the world’s children. Researching the changing world around us and evaluating progress are two sides of the same coin, both critical to reimagining a better future for children. In recognition of this, UNICEF celebrates and showcases innovative and influential research and evaluations from our offices around the world every year. For 2020, Innocenti and the Evaluation Office joined forces to find the most rigorous UNICEF studies with greatest influence on policies and programmes that benefit children.

The Intricate Relationship between Chronic Undernutrition, Impaired Linear Growth and Delayed Puberty: Is ‘catch-up’ growth possible during adolescence?
The Intricate Relationship between Chronic Undernutrition, Impaired Linear Growth and Delayed Puberty: Is ‘catch-up’ growth possible during adolescence?

Chronic undernutrition is characterized by long-term exposure to food of insufficient quality and inadequate quantity, including restricted intake of energy, protein, fat, micronutrients, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Physiologically, in a state of chronic food insufficiency, the human body conserves energy by prioritizing essential metabolic processes resulting in impaired linear growth and delayed reproductive maturation. Consequently, height can theoretically be considered a measure of an individual’s cumulative health and nutrition. Therefore, a deviation from the ‘normal’ height relative to one’s age represents a deviation from one’s optimal growth and, potentially, the presence of other issues. Similarly, the delayed onset of puberty is another common physiological response to food insufficiency, often accompanying impaired linear growth. Chronic undernutrition can arise from chronic disease, congenital abnormalities and insufficient food intake. In this review, we will explore the hypothesis of CUG during adolescence, given the relationship between impaired linear growth and the delayed onset of puberty in children suffering from chronic undernutrition due to a lack of sufficient quality and quantity of food.

Cite this publication | No. of pages: 32 | Thematic area: Adolescents | Tags: adolescents, growth rate, nutrition
Child Undernourishment, Wash and Policy Synergies in Tunisia: Putting Numbers Into UNICEF’s Conceptual Framework of Nutrition
Child Undernourishment, Wash and Policy Synergies in Tunisia: Putting Numbers Into UNICEF’s Conceptual Framework of Nutrition
Published: 2017 Innocenti Working Papers

This paper develops an econometric strategy to operationalize the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF’s) conceptual framework for nutrition, estimating the effects on child stunting that additional investments in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) intervention packages have across population groups (poor and non-poor) and residence (urban and rural). Moving away from estimating single intervention marginal returns, the empirical framework is tested in Tunisia; a country with notable but uneven progress in child nutrition. A successful reduction of stunting will involve mapping the distinctive most effective intervention packages by residence and socioeconomic status, moving away from universal policies.

Cite this publication | No. of pages: 26 | Thematic area: Social Policies | Tags: drinking water, hygiene, nutrition, sanitation
Comparing Child-focused SDGs in High-income Countries: Indicator development and overview
Comparing Child-focused SDGs in High-income Countries: Indicator development and overview
Published: 2017 Innocenti Working Papers
The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aim to build on the achievements made under the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by broadening their scope and building upon a consultative process. The MDGs contributed to substantial social progress in eight key areas: poverty; education; gender equality; child mortality; maternal health; disease; the environment; and global partnership. The SDGs not only include a greater number of development goals than the MDGs, but are also global in focus, including advanced economies for the first time. This paper draws attention to the main challenges the 2030 Agenda presents for rich countries, by highlighting a set of critical child specific indicators, evaluating countries’ progress towards meeting the Goals, and highlighting gaps in existing data. The paper will inform UNICEFs Report Card 14, Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries.
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 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.

Best of UNICEF Research 2015
Best of UNICEF Research 2015
Published: 2015 Innocenti Publications
In addition to recognizing high quality research, the Best of UNICEF Research process aims to share findings with UNICEF colleagues and with the wider community concerned with achieving child rights. This year the competition received 99 applications With global reach, the 12 projects in the final selection cover many of the ‘traditional’ areas of UNICEF work (health, nutrition, sanitation and education), while also highlighting issues that have more recently gained prominence within the global policy agenda, such as social transfers, violence against children and school bullying, and various forms of inequality or exclusion. This publication provides summaries of these research projects, including methodology and results.
The Measurement of Food Insecurity among Children: Review of literature and concept note
The Measurement of Food Insecurity among Children: Review of literature and concept note
Published: 2015 Innocenti Working Papers
Child food insecurity is associated with a range of negative developmental consequences, including behaviour problems. While research shows that the phenomenon is both common and consequential, there is a lack of consistency in what is being measured and how. This results in incomplete information affecting our ability to effectively address child food insecurity, its causes and consequences. We present a review of the literature, and advocate for a global system to measure and monitor individual children’s experiences of food insecurity. The conceptual and practical challenges for developing an effective, efficient, and feasible system for global monitoring of child food insecurity are discussed and alternatives are suggested.
The Impact of Social Protection on Children: A review of the literature
The Impact of Social Protection on Children: A review of the literature
Published: 2012 Innocenti Working Papers
Social protection is particularly important for children, in view of their higher levels of vulnerability compared to adults, and the role that social protection can play in ensuring adequate nutrition, access to and utilization of social services. While existing evidence shows that social protection programmes successfully address several dimensions of child well-being -often in an indirect way - a move towards a more "child sensitive" approach to social protection has recently been advocated at the highest level in the international development community.
As crianças que ficam para trás: Uma tabela classificativa da desigualdade no bem-estar das crianças nos países ricos
As crianças que ficam para trás: Uma tabela classificativa da desigualdade no bem-estar das crianças nos países ricos

AUTHOR(S)
Peter Adamson

Published: 2010 Innocenti Report Card
O presente Report Card apresenta uma primeira visão global das desigualdades no bem-estar das crianças em 24 dos países mais ricos do mundo. São examinadas três dimensões da desigualdade: bem-estar material, educação e saúde. Em cada um dos casos e para cada país, a questão que se coloca é "até que ponto estão as crianças a ser deixadas para trás?" O presente relatório defende a ideia de que as crianças merecem ter o melhor começo possível, que as primeiras experiências podem lançar uma longa sombra sobre as suas vidas e que as crianças não podem ser responsabilizadas pelas circunstâncias em que nascem. Neste sentido, o parâmetro utilizado - o grau de desigualdade na base da pirâmide ao nível do bem-estar das crianças - mede os progressos que estão a ser feitos no sentido de uma sociedade mais justa. Reunindo dados relativos à maioria dos países da OCDE, o relatório tenta demonstrar quais destes países estão a deixar que as crianças fiquem para trás mais do que o necessário na educação, saúde e bem-estar material (utilizando os países com melhores desempenhos como padrão mínimo para o que pode ser alcançado). Chamando a atenção para a profundidade das disparidades reveladas, e resumindo o que se sabe sobre as suas consequências, defende-se que o "ficar para trás" é uma questão fundamental, não só para milhões de crianças na actualidade, mas também para o futuro económico e social dos seus países.
The Children Left Behind: A league table of inequality in child well-being in the world's rich countries
The Children Left Behind: A league table of inequality in child well-being in the world's rich countries

AUTHOR(S)
Peter Adamson

Published: 2010 Innocenti Report Card
This Report Card presents a first overview of inequalities in child well-being for 24 of the world’s richest countries. Three dimensions of inequality are examined: material well-being, education, and health. In each case and for each country, the question asked is ‘how far behind are children being allowed to fall?’ The report argues that children deserve the best possible start, that early experience can cast a long shadow, and that children are not to be held responsible for the circumstances into which they are born. In this sense the metric used - the degree of bottom-end inequality in child well-being - is a measure of the progress being made towards a fairer society. Bringing in data from the majority of OECD countries, the report attempts to show which of them are allowing children to fall behind by more than is necessary in education, health and material well-being (using the best performing countries as a minimum standard for what can be achieved). In drawing attention to the depth of disparities revealed, and in summarizing what is known about the consequences, it argues that ‘falling behind’ is a critical issue not only for millions of individual children today but for the economic and social future of their nations tomorrow.
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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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