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UNICEF in Georgia NEWSLETTER, December #1 2013 (#17)

Introduction The political developments of 2013 coincided with im­portant developments for children in Georgia. One milestone was the Go­ vernment’s commitment to halve child poverty in the coming years – a com­ mitment made by PrimeMinister Bidzina Ivanishvili at the high-level confer­ ence on Early Child Survival and Development in June 2013. While Georgia has made good progress for its children in recent years, this commitment rep­ resents a new and sharper focus on the poorest children who are too often left behind. It reflects a genuine and welcome focus on equity, on the children in the greatest need, and a determina­ tion to transform their lives and, by doing so, improve the prospects for Georgian society as a whole. It is in keeping with national efforts to address the stubborn challenges that still confront many children, some of them outlined in this news­ letter. These efforts include new measures to end institutional care for children without a fam­

ily, to tackle malnutrition and violence against children, to ensure pre-school education for all children and to provide concrete help for those children living and working on Georgia’s streets. And, very importantly, they include a growing eagerness to bring children and young people into the debate – to hear their views on what works, and what does not. Above all, it puts children at the very heart of Georgia’s reform process – a recognition of their critical importance to national development and prosperity. The task ahead is to get solid policies in place and then translate these into concrete action on the ground to ensure that they have a lifechanging impact on Georgia’s most disadvan­ taged children. And we will work to ensure that this action is guided by the views of those with the most at stake – children and young people themselves. UNICEF stands ready, as always, to play its part together with the Government, civil society and donor partners. Sascha Graumann UNICEF Representative in Georgia

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UNICEF in Georgia

Georgia prioritizes young children in its quest for national prosperity and equity

© UNICEF/Geo-2013/Blagonravova

The Conference, attended by Prime-Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and other senior figures from the government, international organizations and civil society, debated the persistent threats to the well-being of Georgia’s children under the age of five. These include the child poverty that


undermines prospects for national, as well as individual, prosperity. According to UNICEF, 77,000 children in Geor­ gia live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 per day, and 205,000 live on less than $2 per day. The Government has made strenuous ef­ forts to tackle both poverty and its impact, in­ cluding the provision of free health insurance, doubling social benefits and increasing pen­ sions. Yet Georgia’s equity gaps remain among the largest in Europe. Families with children tend to be poorer and chil­ dren are often neglected by existing social pro­

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The well-being of Georgia’s young children was confirmed as a national priority at the June 2013 high-level conference ‘Investing in Geor­ gia’s Future - A National Agenda for Early Child Survival and Development’, with the Govern­ ment committing to halve child poverty in the coming years.

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NEWSLETTER, December #1 2013 (#17)

tection mechanisms. Georgia spends a smaller share of its budget on education and health than neighbouring countries and spends less on chil­ dren under five than on any other age group. Half of all children do not have access to any pre-schooling, which leaves them ill-prepared for primary education. Meanwhile, malnutrition and poor quality perinatal care contribute to the deaths of 824 children below the age of five each year. The Declaration and Call for Action emerging from the conference sets out the next steps to close these gaps and enhance child well-being by 2015: •

move towards halving extreme child poverty by establishing an inter-sectoral task force

to plan the introduction and delivery of child benefits •

ensure that every child is ready for school by guaranteeing universal access to quality pre-school education

achieve UN Millennium Development Goal 4 on child mortality by reducing malnutrition and improving perinatal care

end the use of institutional care for young children by expanding early intervention ser­ vices and establishing home-care services for children with disabilities.

The Declaration recognises investment in ear­ ly childhood as one of the most cost-effective strategies to increase Georgia’s human capital, reduce poverty, and overcome inequities.

Next steps: a social protection system that reflects the needs of children There was swift follow-up to the Govern­ ment’s June 2013 pledge to halve child pov­ erty, with immediate action to reform Geor­ gia’s social protection system. The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs and the Social Service Agency, with support from UNICEF, aim to make the social protection system more inclusive and child-sensitive – a vital step towards poverty reduction. An agreement signed in September envis­ ages the revision of existing cash assistance

programmes, particularly the Targeted Social Assistance programme, exploration of other child benefits and the development of a re­ ferral mechanism between social agents and social workers. Solid recommendations will be put before Georgia’s Cabinet of Ministers in 2014. Contact: Tinatin Baum, UNICEF Social Policy Specialist, +995 599 74 77 33, tbaum@unicef.org


UNICEF in Georgia

The end

© UNICEF/Geo-2013/Sulakauri

of large-scale institutions for children deprived of parental care

© UNICEF/Geo-2013/Khizanishvili

Georgia entered a new era for child care in July 2013, with the closure of its last two largescale state institutions for children aged 6-18 deprived of parental care. This was a milestone in State Care Reforms that began in 2005 with the support of EU, USAID and UNICEF – reforms that aim to ensure that every child lives in a family environment and that the state abandons the use of large institutions and focuses instead on family reunification and alternative forms of care.


Around one-third of the 4,600 children who once lived in residential care institutions have been reunited with their families, while foster care has been expanded and strengthened to reach more than 1,000 children. For children who cannot, for the time being, return to their families or enter foster care, small group homes have been created for no more than 8-10 chil­ dren. Currently, 44 small group homes house around 350 boys and girls. There have been comprehensive changes at eve­ry level of the child-care system and a new gate-keeping policy is being rolled-out across Georgia to ensure children come into care for the right reasons, backed by the support servic­ es and strengthened social work interventions. In November, the key state and non-state part­ ners in Georgia’s child care reform came togeth­ er at the conference ‘Every Child has a Right to Live in a Family Environment’ to take stock of the results to date, analyse lessons learned and plan the next steps. The conference, organized by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Af­

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NEWSLETTER, December #1 2013 (#17)

fairs, the Parliament of Georgia, UNICEF and USAID, attracted government delegations from other countries as well as international experts and practitioners.

Contact: Ketevan Melikadze, UNICEF Social Welfare Officer, +995 593 30 48 09, kmelikadze@unicef.org

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They endorsed the continued expansion of childcare system reform to reach not only institution­ alized children, but also other vulnerable groups, such as child victims of violence, children in the justice system and children living and working on the streets. There is also a stronger focus

on children with disabilities, who account for most of the 109 children still living in the last three large-scale institutions in Georgia. Many of these children could remain with their fami­ lies, or be placed in family-style care, if the right support were available, signalling the need for ever greater efforts on their behalf.


UNICEF in Georgia

Make the Invisible Visible Help us make



Making the invisible visible:

tackling violence against children

Around 60 per cent of Georgians still believe that harsh parenting is more effective than nonviolent parenting methods, and 45 per cent believe that the use of physical force against children is acceptable, according to a study published in October 2013. The study, commis­ sioned by UNICEF and funded by USAID, also revealed that 94 per cent of those surveyed understand that even witnessing violence at home can harm children, but 70 per cent are opposed to any interference in family affairs by the ‘authorities’. Even 60 per cent of profes­ sionals involved in the child-protection referral system believe that family affairs are private, and around one quarter of social workers do not think it is their job to respond to physical violence or neglect. The Georgia study is part of UNICEF’s groundbreaking ‘End Violence against Children initia­ tive’, which urges ordinary citizens, lawmak­ ers and governments to speak out on violence against children. The initiative highlights the im­ pact of violence against children, from deaths and injuries to the mental and emotional scars that never heal. The study includes recommendations to create zero tolerance for such violence in Georgia. At


the policy level, these include explicit legislation to prohibit all forms of violence against children, wherever it occurs, and clarity on the obliga­ tions of all professionals who work with chil­ dren, backed by penalties for those who fail to report known cases of violence. It urges the Government and its national part­ ners to invest in awareness-raising to prevent violence and increase the reporting of suspect­ ed cases, with an emphasis on programmes for positive parenting. Children and young people themselves need to be empowered to recognize when their rights are being violated and to re­ port violence in confidence and without fear of reprisals. Measures to end violence against children in Georgia will require political will and resources, primarily from the Ministries involved in the child protection referral process, backed by

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“Just because you can’t see violence against children doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Make the invisible visible. Help us make violence against children disappear” Liam Neeson, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

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NEWSLETTER, December #1 2013 (#17)

strong legislation. But this political will must be matched by greater public participation, with all citizens understanding their role in preventing and reporting violence against children. An awareness-raising campaign has been con­ ducted, including meetings with journalists and

Protection for children living and working on the streets Children who live and work on the streets of Georgia’s cities lack education and proper health care and are often exposed to violence. As a re­ sult, they have little opportunity to become ac­ tive and well-educated citizens who can contri­ bute to the development of their country. A new two-year state-led initiative launched in February 2013 aims to develop a system that effectively addresses the needs of children living and work­ ing on the streets, and contributes to their reha­ bilitation and socialization.

Photo by Onnik Krikorian

The initiative is led by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs in partnership with other state parties (Ministry of Education and

bloggers, video discussions, PSAs, and street art installation, as part of the global campaign to end violence against children. Contact: Ketevan Melikadze, UNICEF Social Welfare Officer, +995 593 30 48 09, kmelikadze@unicef.org

Science; Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Finance, Tbilisi Municipality) and is implemented by UNICEF in partnership and with financial backing from the European Union. Partner NGOs, such as Caritas, Child and Environ­ ment and World Vision first identify the children and offer them immediate support and protec­ tion. They then work with the children and their families to link them to relevant services and to address the problems that pushed the children on to the streets in the first place, such as family violence and breakdown, drug abuse or alcohol­ ism. In addition, the initiative supports legal, pol­ icy and institutional changes that give these very vulnerable children (and if possible their families) opportunities to access health, education, and social services. It will also create mechanisms to protect children from any forms of violence so that they can fully realize their potential and be included in the normal social life of their com­ munities. The project will reach around 700 children in total, with four mobile teams of social workers, psychologists, teachers and peer educators assessing every child on the streets in Tbilisi and Kutaisi. Four day-care centres and three 24-hour transition centres will help children to adapt to life off the street, reunite them with their families if possible, or arrange their placement in foster care or small family-style homes. Contact: Ketevan Melikadze, UNICEF Social Welfare Officer, +995 593 30 48 09, kmelikadze@unicef.org


UNICEF in Georgia year due to malnutrition which is also playing a major role in the country’s high child mortality rate of 20 deaths before the age of five for ev­ ery 1,000 live births.

The toll of malnutrition © UNICEF/Geo-2013/Blagonravova

© UNICEF/Geo-2013/Blagonravova

An estimated 500,000 Georgians, most of them women and children, suffer from some form of malnutrition. As a result, they will not achieve their full potential as students, workers, citizens or parents. The UNICEF report Improving Health and Building Prosperity, published in early 2013, sets out the economic costs of malnutrition in Georgia as well as its heavy human toll, with around 300 children dying prematurely each


The report finds that malnutrition among today’s young children alone will translate into produc­ tivity losses of more than $60 million each year when they reach adulthood. Add to this the costs to social services of nutrition-related problems among babies and of iron deficiency among today’s adults and the total bill for the Georgian economy is estimated at $1.3 billion over ten years. However, the report suggests that this drain on the economy could be cut by one-quarter – by $343 million over ten years – through simple and feasible nutrition programmes such as mi­ cronutrient supplementation, flour fortification and the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding. These programmes would cost a total of just $15 million over ten years, with each dollar in­ vested generating more than $20 in benefits. With a firm focus on those at greatest risk of malnutrition, including pregnant women, infants and toddlers, timely interventions would also save the lives of around 1,000 children over the course of a decade. Contact: Tamar Ugulava, UNICEF Health Specialist, +995 599 92 90 09, tugulava@unicef.org

NEWSLETTER, December #1 2013 (#17)

A good quality pre-school education

for every child

There is compelling evidence that the first five years of life provide the springboard for success at school, adult productivity, and life-long health and well-being. When it comes to investing in human potential, therefore, it makes sense to invest in these early years. And for Georgia, which currently ranks at the bottom of various international student assessments in Europe, in­ vestment in pre-school education is critical if the country is to maximize its human capital.

Photo by Adam Rostkowski

In June 2013, the Government of Georgia pledged to achieve universal access to quality pre-school education at the conference on ‘Ear­ ly Child Survival and Development’. Pre-school education is free, but additional efforts are now required to ensure that every child has access to pre-school education and that the quality is be­ ing improved. UNICEF strongly encourages and is ready to support the Parliamentary initiative to prepare a pre-school law.

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In September, more than 70 participants from academia, government, civil society and the in­ ternational community gathered at the ‘National Conference on Pre-School Education’ to analyse the barriers to quality pre-school education in


UNICEF in Georgia

only 46 per cent of all children in Georgia are enrolled in pre-school and only 30 per cent of poor children actually attend pre-school;

Georgia ranks 17th of 24 European and Cen­ tral Asian countries for pre-school enrolment rates;

enrolment is particularly low in regions with higher child poverty and with many children from ethnic minorities, as well as in rural ar­ eas that lack any pre-school facilities.

Access alone is not enough, however. Georgia’s poor standing in international rankings of educa­ tional outcomes among children of school-age suggests that pre-schools are leaving children poorly prepared for primary education. The conference outlined the Government’s plans on pre-school education and discussed a Parlia­

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Georgia. The Conference, organized by the Min­ istry of Education and Science with the support of UNICEF, was informed by the findings of the 2012 Pre-School Costing Study, which raised serious concerns about the equity, quality, ef­ ficiency, governance and finance of Georgia’s pre-school provision. The key findings of the study included:

mentary initiative to prepare a new pre-school law. UNICEF stands ready to support this vital initiative, which aims to provide the foundation for universal and good quality pre-schooling. Contact: Maya Kuparadze, UNICEF Education Officer, +995 599 21 30 39, mkuparadze@unicef.org

Justice for Children: a new approach for Georgian children in contact with the law Georgia is drawing up plans to transform the way it deals with children caught up in the justice system. The aim is to move beyond ‘juvenile justice’, which focuses only on children in conflict with the law, to a broader concept of ‘Justice for Children’ that applies to all children who come into any form of contact with the law, whether as victims, offenders, witnesses, or as children participating in civil or administrative violations’ proceedings. Such an approach also requires close partnerships between the criminal justice system and broader systems of social protection and child welfare. A policy consultation in September 2013, organized by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance in partnership with UNICEF and the European Union, debated how to build such partnerships and integrate the Justice for Children concept across various sectors, beyond the justice system itself. Georgia has already made great strides in the reform of juvenile justice, halving the number of convicted children serving a jail sentence since


2010 with the support of the European Union and the Government of Netherlands. Children are more likely to receive proper support and rehabilitation than they were ten years ago as the Government brings the juvenile justice system into line with international and European child rights principles. The country’s diversion programme, created in 2010 with the support of the European Union and the Government of the Netherlands, has diverted up to 500 young people from criminal proceedings and individual sentence planning has been introduced, enhanced by better training for social workers, psychologists and other juvenile justice professionals. The task ahead is to use the Justice for Children approach to ensure that all children who come into contact with the justice system – for whatever reason – are protected by the full application of international norms and standards. Contact: Teona Kuchava, UNICEF Juvenile Justice officer, +995 595 222128, tkuchava@unicef.org

NEWSLETTER, December #1 2013 (#17)

A policy platform for Georgia’s young reformers Photo by Gonzalo Bell

action. Young delegates joined representatives from government, civil society and international organizations at the conference, which created four working groups that will work with young people to design national action plans on key elements of the Youth Policy: Youth Participation; Education, Employment and Mobility of Youth; Health-care for Youth; and Special Assistance and Protection for Youth. Concrete steps are being taken to tap into the dynamism and potential of young people as part of Georgia’s national reform process. In 2012, the Government endorsed the National Youth Policy Document – a recognition of the crucial role young people can play in the country’s social and economic development. In June 2013, the National Conference on Youth Policy Development, organized by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, began to translate the policy document into concrete plans for

The National Youth Policy paper and its action plans will be finalised by the end of 2013, with support for the entire process coming from UNFPA and UNICEF. Meanwhile, a web page has been created for anyone who wants to take part in the debate around this new emphasis on Georgia’s greatest resource – its young people. Visit the web page at: www.youth.gov.ge. Contact: Nino Gvetadze, DRR project officer, +995 591 225293, ngvetadze@unicef.org

Building stability in conflict-affected communities: the Youth Participation and Development Programme Young people in the conflict-affected regions of Shida Kartli, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Abkhazia are now part of a programme to fos­ ter stable, integrated and healthy communities. The three-year programme on Youth Participa­ tion and Development aims to boost their con­ fidence, develop their skills and promote their involvement in the civic life of their neighbour­ hoods. The programme, launched in July 2012, is implemented by UNICEF in close collaboration with three local NGOs – Charity Humanitarian Centre Abkhazeti, Atinati and Sokhumi Youth House – with funding from USAID.

ing implemented in 36 schools and communi­ ties, recognising the critical importance of their social integration.

The programme centres on the potential of young people as a force for stability and is be­

Contact: Nino Gvetadze, DRR project officer, +995 591 225293, ngvetadze@unicef.org

The programme is setting up Youth Centres or Clubs in the cross-cutting areas of math, sci­ ences and technology, the environment, healthy lifestyles, and civic education and the exchange of knowledge and confidence-building ideas among young people across these conflict-af­ fected regions, forging links among those from different backgrounds and viewpoints.

Community Support to Children and Youth in Abkhazia UNICEF has partnered with World Vision Inter­ national and the Swedish International Devel­ opment and Cooperation Agency (Sida) on the project “Community Support to Children and Youth in Abkhazia”. Three years of painstaking efforts have proved the impact of the region’s network of Social Community Centres when it comes to increas­ ing access to basic social services for children

and youth. The facilitators, school-teachers and medical nurses have been trained to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent unhealthy and risk behaviours, and to carry out HIV/AIDS aware­ ness and advanced teaching methodologies, not only in schools, but during extra-curricular ac­ tivities organized in Social Community Centres. In doing so, they have helped to mobilize entire communities around the basic social needs.


UNICEF in Georgia As a result, more than 8,000 children in 48 com­ munities now have access to education, play and increased learning opportunities throughout Abkhazia.

living with disabilities (representing 45% of the registered children with disabilities in Abkhazia) have been receiving a range of social and care services.

Pre-school education activities became available for over 500 children in 48 rural communities with the main focus on distant communities with no kindergartens. Peer-education/training sessions initiated and organized by youth and children, reaching out to over 6,000 peers, were focused on the promotion of healthy lifestyles and life-skills development, including sports and recreational activities, the prevention of un­ healthy and risk behaviours, HIV/AIDS preven­ tion and awareness raising. Some 205 children

Routine immunization in the targeted com­ munities in Abkhazia has been improved and strengthened through the network of 48 Public Health Care units. Public health promotion and communication activities have been conducted in villages across every region of Abkhazia tar­ geting 30,000 children andtheir parents, as well as medical and education professionals. Contact: Nada Marasovic, UNICEF Deputy Representative, +995 595 30 41 51, nmarasovic@unicef.org

Changing the way the media portrays children

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Children’s issues may appear in Georgia’s news­ papers and on its TVs almost every day. But how are children themselves portrayed? In June 2013, the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Eth­ ics launched a new three-month phase of moni­ toring of reporting on children with support from UNICEF. The aim: to determine whether Geor­ gia’s media are complying with international and national standards and ethical norms. The study found real progress as a result of painstaking media monitoring and training over recent years. Journalists and editors are more likely to adhere to ethical standards, such as protecting the identity of children and youth in conflict with the law or involved in a family crisis. Yet some journalists still struggle to report ap­ propriately on children and youth. They may be­ lieve, for example, that consent from a parent or guardian is all that they need to interview a child or adolescent – an approach that creates real problems, particularly when children are caught up in violence or are from families experiencing a tragic event.

trained experts. The Charter sent appeals to the self-regulatory body of any media outlet found to violate ethical standards on reporting about children, with the final recommendation published on the Charter’s website. The threemonth scheme also mounted discussions between journalists and students on ethical reporting.

The three-month monitoring phase covered online media, as well as the more traditional TV and print outlets, and was conducted by specially

Contact: Maya Kurtsikidze, UNICEF Communication Officer, +995 599 53 30 71, mkurtsikidze@unicef.org

Editorial Note The Newsletter of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF in Georgia, is published in English and Georgian. It aims to provide information on UNICEF activities in Georgia. This is the seventeenth issue. Your remarks and recommendations concerning the publication will be appreciated. Please let us know if you wish to obtain any additional information on UNICEF and its work. We welcome any feedback, suggestions or contributions. If you wish to obtain a copy of the Newsletter or any other information, please contact Maya Kurtsikidze, Communication Officer, at the UNICEF Office in Georgia. Telephone: (995 32) 2 232388, 2 251130. E-mail: mkurtsikidze@unicef.org


Profile for UNICEF Georgia

Newsletter dec 2013 eng web  

Newsletter dec 2013 eng web