The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
Baby boxes give newborns in Ukraine a stronger start to life
For nearly three decades, Ukraine has seen a steady decline in its population numbers. A low birth rate is partly the cause of the eastern European nation facing a population crisis that threatens its long-term social, economic and political development.
In an effort to address the issue, the government of Ukraine has introduced a range of measures to tackle some of the challenges associated with child-rearing and boost the nation’s birth rate. Educating parents on modern childcare practices, enhancing the social protection standards, health and wellbeing of newborns by improving the care they receive at the beginning of their lives is an important focus.
In partnership with UNOPS and UNICEF, the government launched a pilot project to provide the families of newborns with a one-time ‘baby box’ that contains a range of essential items for infants. The provision of baby boxes helps ensure equal access to early childcare products based on universally accepted standards, during the critical first weeks of a child’s life.
Twenty-seven year old Maria received a baby box on the day her son and third child arrived.
Maria lives in Zhytnyky, a small rural town approximately 150 kilometers away from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
“I don’t work but spend all my time taking care of the children and doing my best to be a good mother. My husband’s main work is us, as he is on the government’s programme of taking care of a spouse with special needs,” she said.
Having lost her sight as a teenager and unable to work, Maria’s family of five lives on a limited income.
We are not a rich family you understand. It’s a very big help to receive a baby box, it is a great support to us from the government. It makes us feel that we are not on our own.
About 90 Kilometers away from Maria’s home another new parent unpacked a baby box.
“In our little town of Rokytne there are not many stores where you can buy things for your child and the money is also an issue, so we have to carefully plan everything to make sure we can cope with the expenses. The baby box is of course a great help, because now we have a whole set of things we’ll need and we don’t need to worry about finding them and spending the money,” said 22 year-old Valentyna Gnatyuk.
Each box, provided within a week after birth, contains over 70 items to help care for new babies, including diapers, hygiene products, blankets, linens and more. Pamphlets with information on safe childcare and early childhood development are also included in the boxes, to help raise awareness amongst caregivers.
Father-to-be Vladymyr Scherbinin said that he stayed up all night reading the material.
It was a good way to spend time and realize how much I didn’t know about taking care of a child.
Started in 2018, the project 'Supporting social protection and responsible parenting in Ukraine' promotes good health and well-being of both newborns and their families. Distributed baby boxes help ensure that every newborn child, regardless of their family's economic situation, benefits from the products and information needed to help get a good start in life.
Larisa Ivanivna, chief nurse of the maternity department at the Zhashkiv central district hospital explained: “Many of the parents who come to us are not rich and with the baby boxes they get a bit more confident that they will have all the necessities at least at first.”
In support of the project, UNOPS conducted all tendering procedures to select providers and to deliver the baby boxes to families across the country, including in remote areas.
“The baby box project … is also an illustration of the synergies in partnerships with the governments and other UN agencies on the way towards Agenda 2030 for the benefit of all people,” said Irina Sahakyan-Vetter, UNOPS Country Director.
“We love seeing parents receiving baby boxes happy and smiling, because they view it as a gift and many appreciate such care and support from the country,” noted Yulia Baula, a specialist from the Leleka maternity hospital.
To date, UNOPS has delivered over 500,000 baby boxes for families across Ukraine. Following the successful completion of the pilot project, the government of Ukraine will drive the initiative forward – providing baby boxes to all new parents across the country…
“I believe that such support will help families become stronger and be able to support each other more,” said Andriy Pasko, a new parent.