Five ways health and social services can support babies, toddlers and the people who care for them through the Covid-19 pandemic

The pandemic is showing us how crucial health and social services are

  1. Prioritise early years health and nutrition services.
  2. Continue to provide parent coaching and support through remote means.
  3. Support the continued provision of childcare services.
  4. Provide mental health services to caregivers and families with young children.
  5. Invest in preventing and addressing domestic violence.

1. Prioritise early years health and nutrition services.

Who’s doing what so far?

  • In Bangladesh, BRAC has kept its maternity centres open with additional training and support provided to workers.
  • In Mozambique, PATH reorganised waiting lines at its health facilities to enable social distancing and quickly scaled up a project to encourage handwashing through “tippy taps”, a low-cost solution first introduced in cholera prevention efforts.
  • Midwives in the Netherlands and the United States started to hold Centering Pregnancy peer group pre-natal visits virtually.
  • In Tanzania and Zambia, electronic immunisation registries previously set up by PATH are helping health workers to keep providing immunisation clinics.
  • UNICEF and USAID Advancing Nutrition developed a counselling package, Infant and Young Child Feeding Recommendations when COVID-19 is Suspected or Confirmed. Based on recommendations from WHO and UNICEF, it includes pictorial counselling cards for use in low-literacy communities in different contexts.
  • In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ministry of Health provided guidance on the adaptation of Vitamin A Supplement (VAS) provision during the Covid-19 pandemic. Together with precautions of crowd control, protective equipment, increased hygiene and physical distancing measures, frontline workers also utilised various social mobilisation and communication methods to reach parents. The National Nutrition Program was able to continue its VAS provision reaching 83% of targeted children aged 6 months to 5 years.

2. Continue to provide parent coaching and support through remote means.

Who’s doing what so far?

  • In Jordan, the Queen Rania Foundation adapted an ongoing parent education programme for WhatsApp. Groups of 20 mothers and two educators are holding one-hour discussions every morning over eight weeks, with educators constantly refining the curriculum to make the content more suitable for this new medium.
  • In Mumbai, India, Mobile Creches made individual phone calls to the migrant worker families they serve, to ensure they are aware of available support from the government and civil society organisations. They also collaborated with those organisations to provide that support, such as food distribution and health checks.
  • The municipality of Tel Aviv, Israel, has filmed and shared short workshops on their app, Digitaf, with tips for parents on interacting positively with their children.
  • Triple P in the Netherlands released parenting tips in six languages — shared by the municipality of Amsterdam — and organised online platforms to support parents and professionals.
  • In Brazil, the Criança Feliz home visiting programme replaced face-to-face training for home visitors and supervisors with online courses.
  • In the Netherlands, TNO developed videos to help parents be alert to early signs of developmental delay which they could share with health professionals through virtual appointments.
  • The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control developed a set of educational and informative picture books to help young children understand what Covid-19 is and how to keep themselves healthy and safe.
  • In Vietnam, UNICEF has procured ‘Pad and Puck’ packages (tablets and Wi-Fi) to help vulnerable groups continue learning and maintain peer-to-peer communication.

3. Support the continued provision of childcare services.

Who’s doing what so far?

  • The Austrian government has temporarily waived conditions on childcare benefits, such as obligatory health checks, to ensure no parents miss out on support.
  • Countries such as the Costa Rica, Netherlands and Singapore have allowed childcare centres and schools to remain open for the children of essential workers.
  • In Australia, the government has committed to paying 50% of childcare fees for all families for six months, providing some stability for childcare providers. Similarly, the Netherlands will be compensating parents for childcare fees paid from March to May while centres were closed.
  • Many US states are providing and sometimes paying for childcare for essential workers.
  • In Ukraine, the Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation provided additional support to educators and childcare centres through a series of online consultations and technical trainings.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released technical guidance on how to protect the frontline health and early childhood workforce. Furthermore, the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative has also released a key position statement which outlines the actions that governments and civil society organisations should take to support and protect the early childhood workforce.
  • In the Republic of Korea, the government has supported a shift from centre-based daycare, to a model of home-based care during their lockdown period.
  • In Malaysia, the Ministry of Education launched a massive open online course (MOOC) to train teachers in the use of digital platforms. This includes age-specific skills which equips preschool teachers to work with their students.

4. Provide mental health services to caregivers and families with young children.

  • In Uganda and Zambia, Strong Minds facilitators are making phone calls to past and current patients. Strong Minds has also created an online and radio campaign to help people identify anxiety and suggest simple ways of coping.
  • In Lebanon, the National Mental Health Programme has developed a Covid-19 action plan that includes tips for caregivers on taking care of their mental health, child-friendly protocols for children who need to be quarantined, and guidance for public health teams to identify people in emotional distress for referral to support services.
  • In the UK, the government has launched a round-the-clock individualised mental health support for the frontline healthcare workforce. In addition, the NHS has launched a mental health campaign, Every Mind Matters, providing information and a helpline for individuals, parents and educators to support their wellbeing and mental health.
  • In China, various medical institutions, universities, and academic societies established free 24-hour online psychological counselling services through WeChat, a popular communication platform. These services covered all 31 provinces in mainland China and included both self-help content and professional counselling support.
  • The New Zealand government launched a set of tools, titled ‘Sparklers at Home’, to support parents in addressing issues related to the mental health of young children and themselves as caregivers.
  • The Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings has published a children’s storybook which caregivers and educators can read with young children to support their understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been translated to 37 other languages to support families and children globally.

Who’s doing what so far?

  • In the Canary Islands, the Institute for Equality launched the ‘Mascarilla-19’ (Mask-19) campaign, which has since been adopted across Spain, as well as in France, Germany, Italy, Norway and Argentina. Women who are experiencing violence at home are encouraged to go to their local pharmacy to request ‘Mascarilla-19’, and pharmacy staff will alert emergency services.
  • In India, the Uttar Pradesh police launched a special hotline number to report domestic abuse, publicised through front-page newspaper advertisements.
  • In Canada, Quebec and Ontario designated domestic violence shelters as essential services that must remain open during the lockdown. Canada has announced a $50 million aid package to support those shelters.
  • In Indonesia, Malaysia and the Netherlands, the governments have either opened a new hotline for parents or expanded the capacity of existing domestic violence hotlines.
  • The UK government has launched a taskforce and pledges £76 million toward supporting vulnerable children and victims of domestic violence. The funding will help community-based services that work in England and Wales and includes the recruitment of additional counsellors and provision of safe accommodation.

Additional resources

Read our other briefs on supporting babies, toddlers and their caregivers during and post-Covid-19:




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