The COVID-19 pandemic dominated the landscape for UNICEF Innocenti’s work in 2020, bringing both opportunities and disruptions. The pandemic has underscored the power of utilizing research and evidence in addressing crisis and uncertainty, and in finding solutions to tough global challenges.
Opportunities emerged in the shape of a Rapid Research Response to assess the pandemic’s impact on children, utilizing evidence syntheses, rapid assessment tools and agile communication modalities. In turn, thousands of users were empowered to gain access to UNICEF Innocenti’s research, knowledge management, ethical advice and convening power.
2019 was a year of celebration and achievement for UNICEF Innocenti. It marked the research Centre’s 30th anniversary, which coincided with the 30th year of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the global charter of children’s rights. And it was the 600th anniversary of our home, the Istituto degli Innocenti, perhaps the world’s oldest continuously operating institution dedicated to childcare. Throughout 2019, we celebrated several events with our Italian hosts – the Government of Italy, the Regione Toscana, the City of Florence and the Istituto degli Innocenti – to which we are all immensely grateful for their unstinting support over the past three decades. This Annual Report outlines some of our achievements in our key strategic workstreams of research generation, research facilitation, and convening and communication, during 2019.
This rapid review seeks to inform 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, similar to 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. Lessons are also drawn from the HIV/AIDS
pandemic due to its impact on adult mortality rates and surviving children.
This brief discusses findings from Plan International UK’s ‘Real Choices, Real Lives’ report, which explores factors in adolescent girls’ lives across Benin, Togo and Uganda that may influence them to ‘accept’ or ‘disrupt’ the gender socialization process. The brief focuses on one of a handful of qualitative longitudinal studies addressing the challenges of gender norms in low- and middle-income country settings, providing crucial evidence in these countries to address Sustainable Development Goal 5 on achieving gender equality.
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.
In the world’s richest countries, some children do worse at school than others because of circumstances beyond their control, such as where they were born, the language they speak or their parents’ occupations. These children enter the education system at a disadvantage and can drop further behind if educational policies and practices reinforce, rather than reduce, the gap between them and their peers. These types of inequality are unjust. Not all children have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential, to pursue their interests and to develop their talents and skills. This has social and economic costs. This report focuses on educational inequalities in 41 of the world’s richest countries, all of which are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and/or the European Union (EU). Using the most recent data available, it examines inequalities across childhood – from access to preschool to expectations of post-secondary education – and explores in depth the relationships between educational inequality and factors such as parents’ occupations, migration background, the child’s gender and school characteristics.
The key feature of the report is the league table, which summarizes the extent of educational inequalities at preschool, primary school and secondary school levels. The indicator of inequality at the preschool level is the percentage of students enrolled in organized learning one year before the official age of primary school entry. The indicator for both primary school (Grade 4, around age 10) and secondary school (age 15) is the gap in reading scores between the lowest- and highest-performing students.
A recent strand of aid programming aims to develop household assets by removing the stresses associated with meeting basic nutritional needs. In this paper, we posit that such programmes can also boost nutrition in recipient households by encouraging further investment in diet. To test this hypothesis, we study the World Food Programme’s “Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO)” in Niger, a conflict-affected, low income country with a high share of malnourishment. Under PRRO, a household could be in one of three groups at endline: receiving food aid to prevent malnutrition, receiving both preventive food aid and food for assets assistance, or receiving no assistance (the control group). When provided only by itself, the food aid has no nutritional impact, relative to receiving no assistance. However, we observe pronounced positive effects when preventive food aid is paired with assets-based programming, over and above what stems from greater household assets. We conclude, first, that certain forms of food aid function well in complex, insecure environments; second, that assets-based programmes deliver positive nutritional spillovers; and, third, that there are theoretical grounds to believe that asset-based programmes interact positively with more nutrition-focussed programming.
Tilman Brück; O.M. Dias Botia; N. T. N. Ferguson; J. Ouédraogo; Z. Ziegelhoefer
In 2016, UNICEF hosted The Adolescent Brain: A second window of opportunity, a symposium that brought together experts in adolescent neuroscience to discuss this emerging science and how we can apply it to support all adolescents – but especially those already facing risks to their well-being, including poverty, deprivation, conflict and crisis. The articles in this compendium elaborate on some of the ideas shared at the symposium. Together, they provide a broad view of the dynamic interactions among physical, sexual and brain development that take place during adolescence. They highlight some of the risks to optimal development – including toxic stress, which can interfere with the formation of brain connections, and other vulnerabilities unique to the onset of puberty and independence. They also point to the opportunities for developing interventions that can build on earlier investments in child development – consolidating gains and even offsetting the effects of deficits and traumas experienced earlier in childhood.
The objective of this evidence gap map (EGM) is to provide an overview of the existing evidence on the effectiveness of interventions (at the macro, meso and micro levels) aimed at improving adolescent well-being in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Its focus is on the outcome domains of protection, participation and financial and material well-being. Outcomes relating to the enabling environment for adolescents are also included to capture the contextual influences that might affect the well-being of adolescents.
This study protocol outlines the criteria used to consider studies for inclusion in the EGM. Only studies that are explicitly impact evaluations or systematic reviews were included and the target study population were adolescents aged 10 to 19 years. The geographic scope were LMICs as defined by the World Bank and all relevant studies written in English, French and Spanish, and published from the year 2000 onwards were included. The research team employed long-form or short-form search strategies, with search terms formulated around the proposed population, intervention, outcome, geographical focus and research design categories. The interactive EGM is available online at www.unicef-irc.org/evidence-gap-map. The EGM report is available at https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/931/
Mental health is increasingly gaining the spotlight in the media and public discourse of industrialized countries. The problem is not new, but thanks to more open discussions and fading stigma, it is emerging as one of the most critical concerns of public health today. Psychological problems among children and adolescents can be wide-ranging and may include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), disruptive conduct, anxiety, eating and mood disorders and other mental illnesses. Consistent evidence shows the links between adolescents’ mental health and the experience of bullying. Collecting internationally comparable data to measure mental health problems among children and adolescents will provide important evidence and stimulate governments to improve psychological support and services to vulnerable children.